Mark 6:31 Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
The disciples had just learned that John the Baptist had been executed and they came and told Jesus.
They also told Jesus of all they had done and taught. Then Jesus extended to them an invitation to take care of themselves after all they had heard and done. I have learned so much from this invitation and four words just popped out: Come-Away-Rest-A While!
I often think that after we have heard tragic news or after we have worn ourselves out by all we have done that we all need to hear this invitation. I especially think of caregivers -- those of us who have given so much of our time, compassion and love to someone with Alzheimer’s. Let’s look more deeply at Jesus’ Invitation.
Come! It’s so strong it is almost a command! And we need to listen to him. He will accept no excuses, no trying to get out of it! Jesus has seen and heard what we have done, and he is telling us what we need to do to take care of ourselves. No time for a “Regret I cannot come” letter! So often we place ourselves last on the “In need of care” list. I have seen caregivers exhausted and still moving forward with every last ounce of strength. His word almost shocks us with its loving invitation and its powerful command.
Away! Jesus even expands this concept and adds “to a deserted place.” I don’t think we need to do that, but we do need to get away. Find a friend who can care for your loved one and walk out that door. Maybe to the park, maybe for a walk, maybe even to a movie! Jesus always tended to his own strength and rest by going to the hills and the mountains, often just by himself, so he could be filled up again with the flowing waters of love and silence and caring.
Rest! The invitation is not to go out and do errands. It is a request to just rest. A friend of mine set up a Respite House. She arranged for someone to care for the loved one and invited the caregiver to come to the home. All meals were prepared. The home was filled with lounge chairs, with private small bedrooms, with a massage table, and with soft classical music often performed by a harpist. No one said anything to you except Rest!
A While! We all know that we cannot ignore our duties to the one we love. We are needed and we know what to do and what must be done. We have become the expert in all that he or she may need. So the invitation is only for a while. Just enough time to regain our strength, our composure, our love and our compassion. Then we can return refreshed and ready to work and care again.
I hope each of you reading this will listen to these four words and arrange a time, and very soon, to just come away and rest a while in the love and arms of Jesus.
Dear God, we know You are aware of all that we do and all that we are. Help us to take care of ourselves so we can care for those we so love and cherish. Amen
Rev. Dr. John Hagedorn is a retired ELCA Lutheran Minister and member of ClergyAgainstAlzheimer's.