In Mark 6: 30-32, after Jesus and the apostles learn of the murder of John the Baptist, it says:
The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, 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 lonely place by themselves.Jesus called his disciples into "a lonely place". While praying about this, I found myself wondering why the place they needed to go would be "lonely". Then I became even more intrigued when the passage continued in verses 33-36:
Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat."The Greek word used here, erēmos, can also be translated as "solitary, desolate, uninhabited." In other words, it is time to get away from others and be by yourself. It is time to be quiet. It is time to spend in prayer. We all need this.
Notice that the apostles were so caught up in work they "had no leisure to eat." We sometimes trick ourselves into thinking our worth is caught up in what we DO. But, in reality it is who we ARE that is what is most important, and WHO WE ARE is developed in leisure.
Now, I am not defining leisure as idleness, messing around, being bored, etc. Rather, the traditional understanding of leisure is an active form of working on being who you are created to be. It involves reflection, prayer, deep thinking and being in wonder at the work of God. It is NOT a time of productivity, in the modern sense of the word.
Most Americans think of leisure as a vacation we take in order to recharge our batteries to go do more work. This is the wrong way to think of leisure. We don't exist to work. We exist for God's sake and our own sake. The problem with the modern way of thinking about leisure is that it identifies our worth in our function. It it utilitarianism. We have to fight this understanding of the right place of work, by clearly understanding leisure. This properly orders things; it makes us better people.
Even the apostles had to be called into leisure, as many Church workers do.
As I do.
This summer I have tried to be intentional about spending time in leisure. I spent time with family, reading, praying, laughing, exercising, reflecting, serving others, learning, etc. I feel like I have really grown in the leisure time I have had.
This is because Jesus called me to a lonely place where I could partake in some leisurely activities.
Where I didn't have a to-do list from work.
Where I could listen and be quiet.
Where I could think and learn.
Where I could just be.
Thank God for the lonely places.