This post was contributed by one of our Board members, Joe Delahunt. Joe is Pastor of the First Baptist Church in New Haven, CT. He is also the Area Minister of the American Baptist Church of Connecticut. He and his wife, LaRee, have been involved in urban ministry for thirty years.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 (New International Version)
It’s far too easy for us to get on the treadmill of activity and think that we can’t get off. No one seems to have enough time. Why is it, for instance, that so many retired people feel that they are busier now than before they retired? One answer, I think, is that modern life is so full of options and distractions. As a result it has become increasingly difficult to focus our time and energies. One example of this is our ever-growing use of technologies like the internet and cell phones. They have been eating away at what little remains of the margin in our lives.
During our recent week by a lake in New Hampshire we were away from our professional roles and the many things around the house that call for attention. Without internet access and spotty cell phone coverage, we had many fewer options for how we spent our time. Suddenly, we had time for more conversation, leisurely meals, swimming, sitting in the sun, reading, thinking and praying. We were so enjoying these things that we mostly ignored one of the other big distractions in modern life, the television. In this protracted time of relative isolation and quiet I experienced a restfulness and peace I had long been missing.
My point is not that vacations are necessary for us. For most people throughout history a vacation has been a luxury beyond reach. At the same time there have always been people who have achieved a certain poise and peace while living productive and busy lives.
Jesus was such a person. His life was filled with passion for his mission and intense labor in serving people. And yet the gospels give the impression of a gracious person who always had time for the people he encountered. He had urgency about his mission and yet appeared unhurried at the same time. His secret was a rhythm of engagement and withdrawal. There was a quiet space at the center of his daily life where he rested and prayed. It was there in communion with God that he found his passion, strength and peace.
Jesus invited and invites his followers to do the same. “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,” he says.
The story is told of a man laboring with much difficulty and at great length sawing down a tree. A friend who came along observed him for a while and realized that the saw was dull, making the work much harder and time-consuming. He suggested, “Why don’t you stop and sharpen the saw?” The man replied, “I can’t, I’ve got to finish this job.”
Why don’t we stop to sharpen the saw? Our bodies, minds and spirits need to be maintained and refreshed. If we take care of them we will be of greater service to God and others and happier ourselves.