This past weekend, pastors from around western Canada gathered in Canmore Alberta for a retreat. They call the gathering Oasis and it is meant to be a time for relaxing and fellowship for the shepherds of the churches in our convention.
In geography, an oasis is an isolated area in a desert, typically surrounding a spring or similar water sources, such as a pond or small lake. Oases also provide habitat for animals and even humans if the area is big enough. Being in the mountains was a great experience. Although it was a good time to relax and visit, as the weekend went on, it became more apparent to me that this was something I needed to experience more regularly than once or twice a year.
But for most of us, we go through life like the song by the band, America. Their song, “Horse with No Name,” begins with this line: “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name…” When life gets to be that bleak, we need to find a place of rest and solace. However, I’ve often discovered that in those times when I do see an oasis, more often than not it quickly turns into a mirage.
How many of us, the moment we walk in the door at home, drop into our favorite chair and relax? I think all of us have had days when you walk in the door with the expectation of rest. Finally! The day was over. You pick up a book and begin to read. But suddenly, the cell phone vibrates or makes a familiar pop. You pull it out to read the message. Then you think to yourself, “Well, I have my phone on so I guess I’ll check my emails.” Soon enough, you are thumb typing responses to a myriad of committees and other needy people. Suddenly, your “rest” time is over… Life has caught up with you.
As much as I longed for my alone time, many times it is over before it even starts! We all know that life is demanding, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter if you are a pastor, an accountant, a barista or a parent, our days are filled with things constantly tearing at our time and lives leaving us little time for solace and peace. All of the demands can be draining.
There was a mother who was featured on Ellen who would lock herself in her pantry to give herself time away from her three kids. While she ranted, she would film her kid’s hands poking under the door. They would call out to her; each one demanding her attention. Now it would be easy to judge the parent and say, “suck it up!” but when you think about it, what parent, especially most moms, hasn’t wanted to lock herself in a room for a few minutes of peace and quiet?!
So how do we find solace? What can we learn from Jesus’ life that can help us “take a break” in the midst of the demand so life? In His brief ministry, Jesus accomplished more than we could imagine, yet He did so with the power and grace of God. Did He get tired? Of course, but He did something many of us choose not to do.
In Matthew 14, we read the amazing story of Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5000. It was quite an accomplishment to take a child’s lunch and feed that many people. After He did this, Jesus told His disciples to go into a boat and cross the water. In verse 23, it says, “After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Later that night, He was there alone.”
Regardless of what you do, you can take comfort in knowing that even Jesus, God in the flesh, needed solitude. He, too, knew the busyness of a life in demand. People were always pulling and tugging at Him. The needs were endless. Some wanted to heal. Some wanted deliverance. Some wanted to hear His teaching. There were times Jesus got worn out and He would routinely withdraw to “lonely places” (Luke 5:16) to find rest. He got away. Slowed down. In all of the giving, He got away to be fed by His Father. Jesus knew and practiced the discipline of solitude.
Before He started His public ministry, He spent forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Before making important decisions, like choosing the twelve disciples, He spent time alone (Luke 6:12; Mark 1:35). After some of His miracles, He found solitude (Matthew 14:23; Luke 5:16). And, of course, just before Jesus would go to the cross for our sins, He spent some time alone with His Heavenly Father (Matthew 26:36-46).
Maybe you are feeling worn-out right now? There’s no guilt in getting away. Solitude is a gift God gives us so we can recharge and refill. If we don’t spend time away and time alone, the self-neglect can be dangerous. One of the greatest things you can do for your own soul is finding solitude. Jesus did it and so should we.
Let me ask you, “Do you ever feel guilty for wanting some alone time?” Why? I would encourage you to take some time for self. I don’t mean self in a selfish way, but time for you and God to hang out. Like recharging a phone, it needs time to be plugged into its power source.
Superman needed his Fortress of Solitude. Jesus needed His lonely places. Where in your schedule will you carve out solitude this week? Even ten minutes count. Jesus was purposeful about His solitude. What can you do during your times of solitude to truly recharge?