Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
In his book entitled Margins: Restoring emotional, physical, financial and time reserves to overloaded lives, Richard Swenson writes these words:
Why do so many of us feel like air-traffic controllers out of control? How can the salesman feel so stressed when the car is loaded with extras, the paycheck is bigger than ever, and vacations lasts four weeks a year? How is it possible that the homemaker is still tired despite the help of washing machine, clothes dryer, dishwasher, garbage disposal, and vacuum cleaner? If we are so prosperous, why are the therapists' offices so full? If we have ten times more material abundance than our ancestors, why are we not ten times more content and fulfilled?1
At some point each week, we also reach a physiological, psychological, and spiritual limit. We do not have an inexhaustible source of energy. We cannot run on empty. We have real limits to what we can accomplish. Another book on time management, another day planner or another time saving device will not help us get more done in fewer hours. Swenson's writes that limits are real. Limits are not the enemy. "Overload is the enemy."2
Jesus knew about limits. He knew about the importance of margins. So after his disciples returned from their preaching mission he tried to take them away from the crowds; away from the busyness of life; away from all the activity of ministry to a quite spot in the desert. He wanted to be alone with them so that they could be refreshed. He wanted to enjoy their friendship without the pressures of life interrupting their solitude. He wanted them to enjoy their relationships with one another.
Have you ever considered that Jesus would like to be alone with you? Have you ever thought about the importance of having time that does not require anything of you except your presence? Swenson refers to this time as margins. Time between the edges of life and the activity of life. Time in which nothing happens. Time in which we sit in quite solitude and relax without a TV or a radio, without the buzz of a cell phone and the endless chatter of another person. Time to enjoy our friendship with God.
THE FEAR OF BEING
"The fear of being left alone petrifies people. A new child in the neighborhood sobs to his mother, "No one ever plays with me." A college freshman yearns for her high-school days when she was the center of attention. ' Now, I'm a nobody.' A business executive sits dejected in his office, powerful, yet alone. An old woman lies in a nursing home waiting to go 'Home.'"3Our fear of being alone drives us to crowds and busyness. We hang a radio or CD player on our hip to take our walks so that if no one else is with us, "...we are not condemned to silence."4
But getting alone with God is not prison sentence to loneliness. Being alone with God is time for growth, renewal and refreshment.
One day the legendary Greek storyteller Aesop was seen playing childish games with some little boys. A man approached Aesop and asked him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity.
Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian,
"Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bows implies."
The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. Aesop explained, "If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it."5
We are very much like the bow. If we do not take time to rest we will snap.
BUILDS INNER STRENGTH
Two men began arguing about who was the better woodsman. One challenged the other to contest of strength and skill. They agreed to an all-day wood chopping contest. They duel began early in the morning. With the first swing of the ax, wood chips began flying. The challenger attacked the logs with a passion. All morning long, he swung his ax, taking only a brief lunch break. Throughout the afternoon the intensity of his work never diminished. At the end of the day they measured the stack of wood. The challenger was surprised to discover that the other man's stack was higher than his own was. "I don't get it," he said. "Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did." "But you didn't notice," said the other woodsman, "that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest."7
Time alone with God in solitude is the most fundamental exercise in the spiritual life. It strengthens our inner spirit. It is time to sharpen our ax.
WE ARE LOVED
Monday morning is my time alone. After taking Abigail to the swimming pool, I return home and sit in a chair by the window to read aloud a few psalms. Then I just sit in silence and imagine myself sitting in the lap of God. This time is a time of refreshment and renewal. I try not to think about what I need to do during the week that comes latter. For just a few moments, I bring my world of activity and busyness to a grinding halt and simply think about how much God loves me.
A friend gave me a verse that many of you have found beneficial from Zephaniah 3:17:
The Lord your God is in your midst,My friend encouraged me to listen to the angels singing. So Monday morning is my time to-listening to the angels sing and remind myself that God loves me.
Years ago a company advertised
a liniment which promised to bring relief to the aches and pains by penetrating
deep into sore tired muscles. We have forgotten that God calls us to step
away from the crowd and get alone with him so that he can penetrate into
the deepest levels of our fatigue.
A. Swenson, Margins: Restoring, emotional, physical, financial, and time
reserves to overloaded lives, (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1992), 15.
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