My summer vacation is approaching soon, so it’s not surprising that I am thinking about spending time away from the usual demands of life. I’m choosing books to take along, looking for good places to ride bikes as we travel, reaching out to friends and family to see along the way, and starting to pack for the trip. The phrase “pent up demand” referring to travel makes perfect sense to me. I am really looking forward to having time away and traveling.
The disciples in today’s gospel reading were probably not all that eager to travel, since they have just returned from going out in pairs, teaching and casting out demons. They gather together and tell Jesus about “all that they had done and taught.” The text says, ” many were coming and going and they had no leisure even to eat.” What a wonderful way to say that life and its demands were overwhelming them. Jesus invites them to “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
There are many other things I could explore in this passage (and maybe I will another time), yet I am caught by the idea of Jesus inviting the disciples to step away from the demands of their life and rest a while. Preachers and other faith leaders (myself included) seem to be always inviting (or insisting) that following Jesus means getting out there and doing; loving neighbors, forgiving people, caring for sick and struggling folks, working for justice, and building a community where all are welcome. This kind of care for the world around us is constant and uses our emotional, mental, and physical resources. This story makes clear that Jesus prioritizes both the needs of the crowds, as well as the needs of the disciples.
Where are you able to get away to a deserted place and rest a while? How do you step back from the demands of loving your neighbor and tend yourself? When do you make time to stop and find peace and quiet to refill your soul, rest your mind and care for yourself? I like to go for a morning bike ride or a walk with my dogs. In the middle of a busy day, taking a few deep breaths and closing my eyes for a moment helps more than you’d expect. Spending an hour curled up with a book or magazine just for fun feels like a treat after a long day. Cooking with family, visiting people, doing something artistic, listening to loud music, calling a friend, or simply spending time all alone can be healing when we are tired from the demands of life and caring for each other.
Jesus calls us to love our neighbor and tend the needs around us, and also to love ourselves and tend the needs within us. May you hear the Jesus invitation to the disciples as an invitation to you as well, to come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while. May time away, long or short, bring you healing and renewal.