Are you busy?
That’s maybe not a fair question. It’s summertime, you might be on vacation. You might work shifts and be off right now. Or on. Or you might be retired. Sometimes people find themselves busier then. Maybe you work at something that’s busier at certain times of the year and this is one of them. Or not. Maybe you do something that requires near constant study or practice. Maybe that’s a lot of “maybes” and the real issue is what makes for being “busy?”
We seem to have a constant drive to occupy our time with something. Work or play, busy seems to be the normal state of things. It’s not just farmers that need to be “on” 24/7 anymore, many industries and businesses, including retail, now work round the clock 365 days a year. Our culture of availability and access requires engagement by both users and servers.
And we play hard, too. From electronic games to physical play, we keep busy. Being exhausted at the end of a vacation - as well as the beginning - has become common. I’ve heard people joke, “I had to go back to work for a rest.”
Sometimes being busy can wear you down. Sometimes it’s energizing. Again, it depends on what you’re busy with. Only you know the real difference between what refreshes, inspires and enlivens your life and what tires you, wears you down and leaves you weak and lifeless.
Wait. You do, don’t you?
Since the beginning of June, we’ve been making our way through the first part of the gospel of Mark. Each week a story of Jesus healing, teaching and preaching, there are miracle stories and important lessons told in parables, and, lately, a lot travel by boat around the Sea of Galilee. From one week to the next, Jesus is either getting in or out of a boat somewhere, relentlessly pursued by crowds of people seeking healing, of one kind or another. Jesus has become a celebrity, attracting crowds wherever he went.
Of course, we hear the story in church each week, piece by piece, story after story. But there’s a big picture here: Jesus is busy. In fact, I think a super brief summary of Jesus life, so far, in the gospel of Mark might go something like this: John the Baptist announces Jesus is coming, John baptizes Jesus in the Jordan, Jesus goes into the desert, Jesus begins his ministry, Jesus is busy, Jesus is super busy, Jesus is so busy he needs twelve assistants, Jesus is still so busy he sends the twelve out in pairs to do more Jesus-ing, the twelve and Jesus are busier than ever.
I’m not trying to be flippant about this, believe me. That there are so many broken and hurting people seeking Jesus out is heartbreaking. And I bet it is for Jesus, too. But when the disciples return, Jesus says to them “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while” (Mark 6:31)
“A deserted place.” Jesus doesn’t just say “we need some down time, let’s have a vacation.” This reminds me Jesus’ own time in a deserted place. Remember the time in the wilderness before he began his ministry? I don’t think that was just to be tested, I think it was a time to assess and prepare for his ministry, to rest and be ready.
And that’s the thing about a rest. A real rest is an opportunity to refresh and rejuvenate, to be inspired and re-energized for whatever’s ahead. It might also include thinking about what’s been accomplished and wondering about where to go from here. Only you can figure out how to provide that for you. It doesn’t have to be a literal “deserted place” or a wilderness. Perhaps it’s a garden or a comfortable couch, a drive in the country or a good book. Even Jesus had to figure that out. Even Jesus needed a rest.
By the way, in the gospel story it doesn’t seem like they get that “rest a while” right away. There’s people who need help and rush to meet them and the deserted place is suddenly full of people. But sometimes the best rest is a moment used wisely and when you know what gives you strength, it might only take a moment to truly rest.