I am still on my search through the scriptures for signs of how my faith can grow in depth and maturity. I am especially looking to Jesus’ life and example to see how I can model my practice of faith on his. This week I have been considering Mark 6:3o-44. Have a look at it. If you are familiar with some of Jesus’ miracles, you may quickly recognize this as the feeding of the 5,000, in which case I would urge you to read it again carefully!
What interests me about this passage right now is not the miracle, not the call for the disciples to feed the people, not even curiosity about what Jesus was teaching the crowd. Instead, in this season of my life, I want to pay close attention to the parts where Jesus and the disciples are trying to get away from the crowd, such as Mark 6:30-32 and 45-46. The lesson I am learning here is that mature faith seeks solitude.
Did you notice Jesus’ response to the disciples reporting in on all of their good works? He does not pat them on the back, congratulate them, thank them, or even welcome them back. Instead he invites them to “come away with me to a deserted place.” They find that on a boat—briefly.
Apparently they should have stayed in the middle of the lake if they wanted a prolonged time away from the crowds. As soon as they get to shore, throngs of people are waiting for them, eager to hear what this wise teacher has to tell them. Hours later, when everyone is still so hungry for his insights that they are hanging around in spite of physical hunger, a miracle happens! All are fed and the even the leftovers are abundant! Once the extra food has been collected, Jesus puts the disciples back on the boat and he heads off to be all alone. If you continue reading, you will see that Jesus walks on water, then goes on to heal many at Gennesaret.
These stories, when read in succession, are enough to make this busybody (yours truly) start to wonder: what if Jesus does not work miracles and bring about good between times of solitude but rather because of the time he spends in solitude?
Based on the many examples in scripture of Jesus getting away from the crowd, spending time in prayer, and spending time alone or with only those closest to him, I do not think Jesus was just escaping the masses just to catch up on sleep but rather to find rest for his soul. My experience says that my soul can only rest when I manage to turn off my overactive, worrisome mind. Not only is that hard for me to do, but it is very difficult for me to justify. Successful, powerful, admirable people tend to be busy. Even my Christian faith gives me an impossibly long list of things to do: make disciples, build the kingdom of God on earth, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and love one another, just to name a few.
Though there is much to do, Jesus’ example of spending time in solitude is undeniable. So… turn off all the gadgets. You might pray or read to calm down, but then close all the books and journals and even stop praying for a time. Stop everything except being. Make time to “be still, and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10). And if you are seeking to grow and mature in your faith, don’t just do this once but often.
Rev. Karen Hernandez, pastor of Living Hope-Kuna United Methodist Church