This past week I would say that my life has been anything but simple. There are reasons why many of us can’t sleep at night, why we can’t relax, or let go. So much of it boils down to time and money.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, Americans work longer hours, averaging about 47 hours a week. It is said that we rush through our meals here in America, while the French have learned the art of leisurely, relaxing mealtimes. Part of the reason for that is the 137 more hours per year Americans work than Europeans. On top of that, the average American spends close to 300 hours per year just commuting to and from work. We spend an average of 32 hours on line per month, 13 hours a week cleaning the house and washing dishes, then there’s baseball practice, ballet, after-school activities and sports. We work and run a thousand miles an hour. Sometimes we’re even trying to outrun our pain and angst and discontentment, and we’re not alone, it’s our whole society.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus and the disciples spent a very busy several weeks traveling, and walking, and being on boats, and attending to the crowds, as Jesus was constantly teaching, and healing people. Then he also sends the disciples out to preach, and pray, and do the same. As you read Mark chapter 6, Jesus could tell that the disciples were overwhelmed, tired and exhausted, even if it was all good. And He said to them:
“Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while. For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” -Mark 6:31.
Here, for the disciples, Jesus’ call was a call to come aside a while and rest…
Several years ago I’d had a very busy season in ministry. It was the autumn of the year with several of those 50-60 hour weeks in a row: lots of evening meetings, new outreaches, projects, and programs, and so on. I managed to get a weekend away to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, in Conyers, GA. It’s a Benedictine Monastery, Trappist in particular, which means they observe a lifestyle that is 90% silence. No radio, no TV, I left the cell phone in my car, and honestly, though my intention and priority was to pray, I found that God’s intention for me was to rest. His call to me was a call to come aside, and rest a while.
One of the nights I was there, I woke up at 2 or 3 am. It’s funny, but I had the taste of Angel Food Cake in my mouth. Angel food cake? I opened one eye and chuckled and said “That’s funny God, I see what you did there.” Then I rolled over and went back to sleep.
A couple of years later I was reading through “The Life of Saint Cuthbert,” the story of the Celtic saint, by the historian Bede from the Middle Ages. He tells the story of Cuthbert being the guest-master at a monastery where he is the hospitality person to visitors. Late one night a visitor came seeking shelter at the monastery. The next morning Cuthbert begs the man to stay and eat bread for breakfast before continuing his journey, but when he returns the man is already gone. However, on the table the man left three loaves of bread unlike anything Cuthbert had ever seen before. Cuthbert describes them as very light colored, a sweet smell like roses hung in the air, and he stated that they were like honey to taste.
My mind immediately went back to my food dream at the monastery and I laughed “ANGEL FOOD CAKE!!!! Just like Saint Cuthbert!”
It was in reading the story of Cuthbert that I realized how sacred coming aside a while and resting really was…it was entering the restorative presence of God.
And for many of us this lent Christ is calling to us to come aside for a while and rest.
Father Dale Hall began ministry in 1987 at Calvary Baptist Church, in Rome, Georgia, while in college. He’s been a social worker and crisis counselor, as well as a Vineyard pastor. Now he’s an Anglican priest serving at The Mission, in Chattanooga, where he leads several ministries, and lives with his wife Kimberly. They have two sons and a daughter in law.