Rest by Rachael Keefe


Written by Rachael Keefe

Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Mark 6:31

I don’t know about you, but I’m not very good at time away, especially time away for rest. While I know that I need to pay attention and do better with this, I recognize that I am in good company. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus and the disciples almost never get to be by themselves, let alone to rest. Most of the time, Jesus invites the disciples to come away to a quiet place only to discover that the needy crowd has gotten there ahead of them.

While those of us who keep ourselves too busy might console ourselves with the idea that Jesus never really got to rest, we probably shouldn’t as we are not Jesus. Most of our busyness comes from ourselves, not from a crowd in desperate need of hope and healing. In fact, for some of us, our need for hope and healing is what drives us to keep so busy. Can you hear Jesus inviting you to come away and rest a while?

Last week I went to the Wild Goose Festival. It was an amazing experience to be out in the mountains of North Carolina with 3000 or more progressive Christian folks. This was a break in my routine and an opportunity to camp out. It’s been more than 15 years since I camped in a tent in the woods. It reminded me that being outside for a few days renews my spirit. Granted, I was there to work and it was not a quiet place, but it awakened in me what I had forgotten - the woods are good for my spirit.

Summer is often a time when we think about slowing down, enjoying nature, and unwinding a bit. I have memories of summer being restorative and restful, but I’m not sure how accurate that really is, particularly in my adulthood. When I was a child, vacation either meant staying home and spending the days playing with my friends or it meant camping in northern Maine or Vermont. Now it means something else. Vacation now means traveling and doing new things or it means staying at home and getting things done that I don’t usually have time for. Neither of these does what Jesus invited his disciples to do. Where is the quiet place of rest?

Self-care is a word that is often tossed about these days. It can mean many things. Self-care can mean taking a mental health day and staying home to catch up on sleep. It can mean daily prayer or meditation or a relaxing hobby. It can include a healthy diet and exercise routine. Usually, self-care is brought up when someone notices we are a bit off balance. This verse from Mark and the passage surrounding it, serve to remind me that self-care should also include getting away to a quiet place by ourselves.

The summer isn’t over yet. There’s still time to take a few days of quiet rest - in the woods, at the lake, at the ocean, or in your own home. Sometimes it’s okay to do nothing but breathe. Just because Jesus and the disciples had trouble getting away for rest and renewal, doesn’t mean we can’t take care of ourselves. May you find a place of quiet rest amidst the noise and the busyness.
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author, and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.