CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: Rest and Replenish
"The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed."
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
I have been hearing a lot about burnout.
Even before the pandemic, some of us felt like we were doing as much as we could with our ever-depleted stores of energy, enthusiasm and brain power.
The world was already in crisis mode, governed, it seemed, by tweets. And then a different kind of virus emerged, and preexisting chronic conditions, systemic racism among them, became suffocatingly unavoidable, even for those who have typically looked away.
For some, burnout has tipped into fried over the last 16 months. For too many, this season has meant a heightened risk to their own well-being as they’ve worked on behalf of the rest of us. Sourdough starters and home-improvement projects aside, the needs of the world have felt and continue to feel overwhelming.
Enter the apostles in today’s reading. Earlier in the sixth chapter of Mark, Jesus has sent the 12 out in pairs to preach, teach and bring about miracles. Like the community organizer he is, Jesus had encouraged them to live among the people and build relationships whenever possible.
Travel light, he tells them. Rest where you can, but when you find folks who will not listen, keep moving. Shake it off and get back on the road.
Now reunited with the Lord and with each other, the apostles are beat. They have seen and done a lot in a world that doesn’t always want to hear from them. Sometimes, there’s not even a chance to eat. Recognizing this, Jesus invites them to step away, rest and replenish themselves.
As I write this in the fiercely bright days between Juneteenth and July 4, dense summer has descended on North Carolina, and thoughts have turned to vacation. That’s what the apostles need – a trip to Boone or Manteo. A change of scenery where no one knows who they are. Or maybe just a couple of days at home where nothing is required of them.
But that’s not what they get because needs have a way of finding us. Time and again, the crowds follow them. Jesus resumes healing and teaching; he will shortly feed a multitude so generously that an abundance of leftovers will remain.
What to make of this by those of us who are feeling worn down and overwhelmed? Certainly, there are times we read about a Jesus who seems somewhere on the continuum of peeved to exhausted, depleted by the constant demands. Earlier in this chapter, Mark told us that Jesus has been shaken by his hometown neighbors’ lack of faith in him.
What could be the lessons for us from a group of weary disciples and a Messiah in the crush of ever-critical exigencies and the endless need for miracles?
Perhaps, most importantly, one thing I hear acknowledged is that the exhaustion is real. Jesus recognized it in his closest friends. Although our best laid plans don’t always result in the nap we’ve been craving, creating a space to rejuvenate is worthy and necessary. It is part of our humanity.
Next, eat. Seriously, we cannot do the work when we are starving. That means food that meets our physical needs, but we also must feed our minds and our spirits. Sometimes that’s recognizing we’re hungry for lunch before grouchiness grabs hold. Sometimes that means reading, watching or listening to something because we want to rather than because we ought to. Sometimes, that means taking the dogs out back and being drawn into a few moments of their uncomplicated joy.
Nourishment can also come from prioritizing one concrete thing that will remind us that we are capable and powerful even if we fall well short of performing actual miracles. How might we be a blessing in the world in this moment and on this day? For me, that might mean praying, emailing an elected official, washing the dogs, calling a friend. We can do one thing that breaks the paralyzing grip that would convince us that we cannot do anything.
The demand for healing miracles is real but so is the toll it can take. To do what we can of the former we must do all that we can to manage the latter. So let us pack lightly and build relationships, rest when possible, nourish ourselves, and do what we are able in a world more than ever in need.
Aleta Payne is the senior associate editor at Faith & Leadership.
Tags: Caminando with Jesus