In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus said to His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” This scene occurs in a very busy chapter of miraculously feeding thousands of people, healing others, battling storms, enduring the death of John, contending with rejection, and additional challenges. Christ sent them out in pairs to various places to spread the message of hope and salvation and then welcomed them home again. Instead of judging their work or grading the job they did, He simply invited them to take time for rest and restoration.
This attitude aligns well with Celtic Thunder’s song, “Come By the Hills,” and Lucy Montgomery’s poem, “Come, Rest Awhile.” They invite us to escape from the places that absorb our energy, soak up our time, and zap our spirit. The former is about a boy who dreams and is drawn into the beauty of God’s magnificent cathedral of creation in the rolling hills of nature; the latter is about a lady who steps aside from greed and trouble and faces that have lost their smile. The two beckon us to step from hectic surroundings to paths that are less traveled, to exit urban markets and dangerous streets to places where we can hear the faint chimes of colorful music and recall stories of old that fill our hearts, scenes that reveal goodness and truth through fanciful landscapes and where time seems to stand still. For the child it is a place to dream of a future that can be won, and for the elder it is a place to reminisce amidst treasured memories. For all it is a place to be renewed and reinvigorated by legends that still roam, but in an atmosphere seldom touched by us.
I suspect Jesus encouraged His disciples to find such a place because doing so aided Him. He periodically escaped into the hill country or upon a mountain range, to the lake shore or onto a boat, in the desert or other isolated spot because it sourced and anchored Him in His mission and ministry. There He consulted the higher power of His heavenly Father and rested in sacred reassurance. I think Jesus wants all of us to seek a place like that because it can enhance our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health and general wellbeing; coming away to a quiet place can rejuvenate us in our vocation or pursuit also.
Some people have farmland, a lake house, mountain cabin, desert resort or other physical spot to retreat. Others find rejuvenating solace in a holy hour at their parish chapel or walking a neighborhood nature trail. Even in our busiest and most chaotic moments, some train themselves to escape to a happy place in the mind or through breathing techniques or centering prayer to refocus their hearts or reorient their mission. Whether it’s for a minute or a month, we all do well to contemplate aspects of our lives, components of our faith, and elements of our relationship with God.
To help with that, on Thursdays in May, I will offer small group, two-to-three-hour, mini retreats at my spirituality center; each will include a brief introduction to Bible, prayer, and spiritual exercises. If you are interested in joining one of them, let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Most will be in the morning or midday, though one (May 11) or more will be scheduled for the afternoon or early evening. I’ll pin down the times with the first few who commit to them. For more information about the spirituality center click here. Come and rest for a while.