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‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ Mark 6:31

When I was a little kid, we went on holiday to North Wales. My Dad was trying to decide if the tide was coming in or out so he’d know if it was safe for us to play on the beach. This was the first time I heard of the sea coming in and going out. I wandered down to where the sea was lapping onto the sand. I stood looking for a moment and wondered about the idea of the tide coming in and going out.

It seemed a really slow and inefficient way for water to rise and recede – all these little waves going back and forth all day. If the water was coming in, why didn’t it just rush in? And when it was going out, why didn’t it just go out in one move. Why all these little waves falling and rising all day.

As I got older I realised that nature is seldom in a rush. The Earth has a rhythm and like our own breath it rises and falls to perfect timing.

The more I understood this rhythm the more peace I found within myself. Rather than thrashing around trying to speed certain seasons up, if we learn to walk to the rhythm of life and creation, we will tap into God’s own rhythm.

Lots of Jesus’ followers are busy ‘going’ – on missions, on trips, doing outreaches – the activity never seems to pause even for a moment. 

But that is not the way of Jesus.

Jesus had a definite rhythm of coming and going.

His own ministry began not with preaching, healing, or deliverance. It began by withdrawing into the wilderness. This withdrawing was led by the Holy Spirit.

Many people seem to rush off to some mission to serve God without withdrawing first. Many times such haste leads to personal exhaustion and collapse.

Jesus told his disciples to come aside for a while.

‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ Mark 6:31

All the great characters in the Bible seem to follow this pattern – Old Testament prophets, King David, Jesus and St Paul – withdrawal, encounter, vocation.

Withdrawal

Jesus went out into the wilderness for an extended period. It may or may not have been 40 days. The number 40 in the scriptures indicates a prolonged period of test or trial. Noah’s 40-day flood, Moses’ 40 years of wilderness wanderings, Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, all indicate a prolonged period of trial. That’s what the number 40 means when you come across it in the Bible.

The withdrawal into solitude refines us by forcing us to engage on the inner journey. Most people avoid the inner journey because before we meet with God, we often have to face our own demons. I’m not talking about evil spirits but our own demons – things that scare us yet so often control us - hurts and habits of the past.

The monastic life is all about being still and silent, and letting those uncomfortable feelings come up. We don’t need to respond to them but ask God to lead us through them so that we can overcome them.

Somewhere in the silence, maybe after several sessions over many days or weeks, the next stage emerges – encounter.

Encounter

Something happens. A word or vision emerges. Something profound happens so we feel God has spoken to our inmost being. The thoughts or words are so not of us, it is clear they are ‘other’ or from God. 

As we rest in the encounter with God we begin to reflect on the meaning of this encounter. This, in turn, leads us to vocation or mission.

Vocation

Some sort of ‘call’ to a vocation, a new season, or some sort of ‘mission’ now emerges. We begin to reflect and test this new season of life in the Spirit. We will make missteps along the way but the Spirit brings us back to the encounter and what we heard there. And so the mission or new season is refined and retuned.

‘Coming aside’ with Jesus often leads to our ‘going out’. If our going out began by withdrawal then our going out will be all the more fruitful.

After withdrawing to be alone, Jesus called the 12. He calls them aside to be with him then he sends them out. Then they return to him again - coming and going.

Then he repeats this with the 72. Coming and going.

All through the gospels you will notice Jesus and his followers withdrawing and then going out. It’s a constant rhythm just like the ocean.

As we tune into the rhythm of God’s creation, we will notice that each day has its own rhythm signaled by night and day, each week has its own rhythm signaled by work and rest, each month has its own rhythm signaled by the waxing and waning of the moon, each year has its own rhythm signaled by the four seasons.

We are all busy with many things. We live in an ‘always on’ 24/7 type of world. But if we are true spiritual seekers we must heed the call of Jesus.

‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ Mark 6:31

This call is not really a call to action, it’s a call to inaction - to be still and silent for a while, to rest and recharge.

In what ways could you respond to this call of Jesus?

Categories: Community, God, Health, Prayer, solitude
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