Mark 6:31 – “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’s comment about “so many people coming and going” reminds us that not much has changed even in 2000 years. We may wish for things to slow down but unless we head the call of Jesus we will always be caught in the chaos. Jesus invites His disciples to follow Him to a quiet place to rest. Its easy to get caught up in the needs around us but at some point we all need to trade the crowd for Christ. The Greek word “quiet place” here is literally “desert place.” The “desert” had strong associations for the Jewish people as it was in the desert where they often encountered God. In the book of Exodus, we are told that while traveling through the desert God came to live with His people. Elijah experienced God’s presence and provision after wondering despondently into the desert. Jesus before starting His public ministry went into the dessert. For the Jew, the desert was both a place of proving and testing, as well as a place of renewal and restoration. By calling his followers away from the crowd to a desert place, Jesus is reminding us that the essence of being a Christian isn’t doing stuff for Jesus, but it’s being with Jesus. This is the most incredible invitation and one we often miss, you see Jesus is inviting them to hang out with Him, to let down their guard, they don’t need to perform or act, but to simply be. Although their time of ministry was effective, they need to disassociate themselves from ministry for a while.
When we don’t come away it isn’t long before we become overwhelmed by the chaos. Caught in the currents of the crowd and worn down by its constant coming and going, a tide of relentless needs. In a chaotic world solitude and silence centers us, providing perspective, painting the bigger picture of eternity. In this get it now society, driven by the latest fades where the only constant is their consistent fade into the temporary, we need an eternal reminder. Without this eternal reminder we become earth bound, caught in a culture consumed with production yet bankrupt of peace. We have traded the treasure of relationship for the temporary trinkets, and there rusty riches. Leaving us to live in the lie, and endure its empty meaningless life, void of any real pleasure. Jesus’ call to “come away by yourselves to a quiet place” is an invitation to intimacy. Yet we fight rest, even from our earliest moments we resist rest, children don’t want to go to bed for fear of missing something. But what if in our constant activity and avoidance of rest what we are really missing is intimacy with Jesus? In our ceaseless wrestling most of us miss the invitation to the intimate, the “come away by yourselves to a quiet place” Today we live lives so caught up and consumed by doing that we miss the Master. The tragedy of our times is that we are trading the miraculous for the mundane. We are over run by the ordinary, stuck in the rut of routine, instead of resting with the Redeemer. In our buy now pay later society, with its focus on temporary and immediate gratification its easy to loose sight of eternity. It is during these times of coming away to rest that we discover God’s purpose, solitude provides an opportunity to pan out and gain an eternal perspective. Without this broad view we become trapped in our tunnel vision, forgetting our real calling and purpose in life. Rest helps us to remember what really matters, while providing a distraction free place to make decisions. Just as Jesus sought out solitude before many major events in His life so we need to cultivate a coming away to a quiet place. Seeing the big picture also allows us to see who we are as well as who we are not. We let much of our lives be shaped by the opinions and wants of others instead of our Maker. In Solitude we learn to live in integrity, listening to the voice of Christ more than the crowd. How much of out lives is spent on wasting time, time spent trying to measure up instead of listening to the truth. Trying to live up to who we think we should be, instead of living out who He say we are. We are all tempted to live as people pleasers, rather than live in integrity with who the Father has called us to be. The more time we spend in solitude with the Father, the less other’s judgments will dictate and direct our lives. It is our Savior that calls us special, and this is separate from any of our accomplishment or accolades. The sad truth is that rather than base life on what He says we chase after the fleeting and fickle applause of the crowd. As if its hollow applause could somehow fill our empty lives.
So how do we build solitude into our lives when we live in a society that seems to be moving at the speed of light? How do we develop a practice of solitude, so we sit with the Savior regularly and not so sparingly? First we need to stop being so reactive and learn to be proactive, carving out time in our calendars. If we try to just wait for things to slow down we will always be swept along by the tidal tug of some current crisis. Its not just going to happen, and if we want to participate in His call then we have to be proactive. Without the practice of proactive living we become consumed by our calendars and their current demands. Life becomes a series of knee jerk reactions, void of rest, and quickly disintegrating with every reactive decision. The truth is that we make time for what we think is important. Jesus didn’t live a reactionary life, responding to the continuous demands of the culture, instead of reacting to the world, the world reacted to Him. This time that we carve out to be with Christ, Christians have traditionally called “a quiet time.” Take some time out of your day, find a place that you can be alone and quieting yourself before God. Start small and build, for those unaccustomed to stopping to be silent at first it can be overwhelming. Many find silence to be deafening when you take away the noise! Silence can still the heart, but many of us fear that if we take time in solitude we won’t have time to get everything else done. Yet it is silence and solitude with the Savior that puts everything into perspective and preparing our hearts to be productive. Nothing prepares and purges the heart more than solitude for it purges us of the incessant need to pursue pointless things. Rest releases us from the need to constantly rush, instead of a hurried life we live a holy one. Today we wonder why we live such unhappy lives, I wonder could it be tied to the fact that we are stuck in the rut of rushing? I believe that when there is always hurry and no hush there will always be unhappy. Along with quiet times, we can go on retreats, wether for the day or longer. These prolonged times of stillness and can be powerful times of connect with God. You might think that going on a solitary retreat is only for super Christians, people in full time ministry, or people who are really messed up, or all of the above. But the truth is Jesus was calling His disciples to retreat with Him, so let me ask you, are you a disciple of Jesus? Some find it easy to quiet themselves before God, but for most it takes practice to quiet our souls. First take away any expectations, this is not about accomplishing, its about being not doing. Prayer can play a big part in these times of solitude but remember its not about the petition its about His presence. Practice pausing when you pray, give God time to speak, remember prayer is a two way street not a one way dead end. Sometimes I will read and meditate on scripture, but often I will start simply by sitting still, dismissing the seemingly urgent demands of the day, and letting the mentality of do dissipate into be. Give your heart a chance to shift gears, just like anything that is moving it takes time slow down. Solitude is about carving out sacred space in our lives, shutting out the world and spending time with the Savior. I think our cultural tendency is to talk, we seem to have a need to fill the silence with noise. I have been traveling through Scotland, seeing many amazing places along with others who also come to experience its rugged beauty and turbulent history. As you stop to see one of its breathtaking sights maybe a majestic castle or serene Loch, what are the people all around doing, talk, talk, talk. Rather than standing silently in awe and soak in the scene we speak, mostly about nothing. Right now the World Cup is also going on and there is the non stop chatter of commentators. Their job is to talk and tell us what is going on, but have you noticed the subtle shift in commentating? We have gone from communicating on the game to constant babble. Its not just the World Cup listening to any sports commentator, they constantly point out the obvious, talking about everything and yet nothing, its as if they get paid for every word they speak. We have become a culture of constant chatter and no communication. We are afraid of silence, even our elevators have background music, because a ride in silence might get uncomfortable! But silence stills the tongue long enough for us to stand in awe of the Almighty to listen as He speaks. When was the last time you were silent and just soak in the Savior? Next time you get in your car, try not turning on the radio, recognize God’s presence as you ride to work. So now comes the hard question, “when are you going to get away with God?” Jesus says, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place . . .“ will you heed his call?