Purposeful Retreat

9 02 2012

Last year Lyn and I took a camping vacation (is that an oxymoron?). I had made my morning cup of coffee and was sitting at the picnic table. As I enjoyed the peaceful surroundings, I found the passage saying Jesus “went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35b).

Solitude seems interconnected with a deepening faith. I doubt there have been spiritually mature believers who have not also followed Jesus’ pattern of purposeful retreat.

One difference between Jesus and me on that morning at the campsite was the schedule: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight” (1:35a). Unlike Jesus, I had not risen early. It is especially remarkable that He did so, in light of the  His schedule the prior day. It had been the sabbath but there had been no rest! He had taught in the synagogue, cast a demon out, healed Simon’s mother-in-law. Then the work began! In the evening, the entire village arrived at the door and He turned nary a sick or possessed person away. Most of us would have slept in and taken the next day off, but Jesus started the day early in prayer and solitude.

At this point in the story, I try to put myself in Simon’s sandles. My brother Andrew and I have just been called to fish for men instead of fish. I don’t fully understand what that means, but the previous day tells me I now follow a rabbi who teaches with an authority unlike any guest teacher our local synagogue has ever hosted. I know that our little band of followers will heal and deliver, but this is all very new to me. I’m accustomed to boats, nets and sails. Suddenly I am waist deep in needy people. It’s hardly daylight and my tea is still boiling, yet I hear voices outside my house. The first knock comes at the door. A neighbor hails me. Another calls out. I open the door and, O Lord, there are more! Where have they come from, Tiberius down along the coast?

Peter and his wife go to find Jesus. Where did He sleep last night? I thought He decided to sleep on the mat on the roof. Jesus where did you go? Were you aware that “Everyone is looking for you?” (Mk 1:37b).

Here’s my takeaway. Today, solitude suffers inattention because it is undervalued. When our nets are full of needy people, we can’t leave them. But Jesus sets a different example. He retreats. He makes Himself unavailable. He knows He must seek direction for what is next, not merely meet the needs that clamor for His attention now.


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