A Deserted Place

Now when Jesus heard [that John the Baptist had been executed], he went away in a boat to a deserted place by himself…

-Matthew 14:13

Earlier this week, I took my kids to the playground for the first time in months. I made sure to pick a time when the playground would be deserted, so we wouldn’t need to worry about wearing masks. They ran and yelled and climbed and jumped and laughed and slid. After a while running around with them, I sat down on a swing and began to swoop gently back and forth.

I have always loved swings. When I was a kid, I’d stand in line at recess for my turn on the four swings available to forty kids. When I was a teenager, there was a church with a playground at the end of my block. I’d walk over any time I needed to clear my mind and swing as hard and high as I could. Flying back and forth through the air gave me a sense of peace and simple joy. Even as an adult, there is something about swinging that makes my worries and problems seem smaller. Up in the air, I am focused on the joy and the fun. Even when my feet touch the ground, the sense of peace remains.

Jesus was no stranger to taking a few steps away from everything when he needed to find peace. When he heard that his cousin John had been murdered by King Herod, Jesus needed a moment to himself. He hopped on a boat and sailed off somewhere quiet to collect himself. Of course it never lasted long. People needed him. Still, Jesus knew the power of taking some moments to rest and reset, doing something he loved. He knew that even a few moments of peace would give him endurance for the next journey.

One of the places I find that peace is on a swing set, as childlike as it might sound. I’ve heard people describe the same sort of peace and renewal from going fishing. I’ve heard people say that they find that peace while they get a pedicure. Others get that peace from jogging, from singing, from yoga, from gardening. In another part of the gospels, Jesus finds peace by taking a nap, which is a model many of us could stand to try.

Taking time to seek peace is even more important when it feels like there’s no time. I guarantee that nothing you are doing is more important than the ministry of Jesus. If he took breaks, so may you. The pandemic will not be ending tomorrow, or the next day, or the next month. Neither will social and political division. Neither will your work. Neither will your emails. Neither will the housework. Working harder without any breaks will not make your problems be resolved faster. All it will do is deplete your sense of peace.

So consider these words the sign you were waiting for, telling you to pause. Take the time and do the thing that brings you the peace that passes understanding and the joy of the Lord. Let that peace be a gift to you from our Lord Jesus Christ, who showed us we can take a break.

God, too often I feel like I can’t rest. I have so many worries, responsibilities, and commitments. Help me to heed your example and take a break. Give me the peace and joy that only you can give. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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