3 Steps to a Holy Rest

“And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”’ – Mark 6:31 ESV


photo: Raye Wortel

photo: Raye Wortel

My husband beckons me to the couch.


He wants to sit together for a while and watch shows like Shark Week which, as its name suggests, should last seven days, when in reality it seems to run year round. Seriously, just name it Sharks 365 and be done with it! Anyway, I meet him on the couch because I know it’s important for our relationship – to meet him on his ground, and honor him through this small act.


But is it really a small act? Because I’ve got to tell you, when I sit down on that couch, it’s like I’ve got a bag filled with three screaming cats named Shoulda, Coulda, and Gotta, clawing it out on my lap. I twitch, and jerk, and fidget waiting for the next commercial when I feel it’s fair to get up, get something done, and return before the show resumes.


Have you been there?


Let me ask another question… have you ever forgotten to return?


I have, and though my husband is very understanding, it bothers me to know I’ve missed out on time with him – even if it is to watch sharks.


Why do I have such a hard time choosing the doing over just being?


If I’m honest, there’s another relationship in my life I wrestle with too.


In his small, yet beautiful book, The Practice of the Presence of God, author Brother Lawrence says:


“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you in the midst of your troubles, to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him.”


Seems so simple. Yet, I read this, and feel a twinge of guilt and shame for those days when it isn’t until I put my head on my pillow at night, that I remember I haven’t thought of the Lord at all.


It’s ok, I’ll do better tomorrow. But tomorrow comes and we labor, and work, and strive, and serve and God gets left behind on the couch once more. Yet, always in His graciousness, He offers a solution. One I believe may ease us into the continual unity He seeks with us.


Mark 6:31 says, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”


Come away by yourselves. Hard, I know, but there is much in our life and in our service of others that exhausts and concerns us. We must rest – alone.


Matthew Henry says, “Christ calls them to come themselves apart; for, if they had anybody with them, they would have something to say, or something to do, for their good; if they must rest, they must be alone.”


To a desolate place. When I first read this, I was not thrilled. It conjured visions of a dry, barren, and forsaken place. If I’m to take time alone, this is not the kind of place I would choose. But as I thought more on it, I think God is calling us to nature. To a place desolate of man-made comforts, where His creation reigns without the intrusion of human hands.


Rest a while. This is perhaps the most important part. We’ve come away to a desolate place by ourselves and find the joy and peace of the Lord as we rest and refresh. Over time our communion here grows sweet and deep, and the world we leave behind holds less appeal. Somewhere along the way, our bag of screaming cats has become a soft blanket on an open field. The desire to stay is powerful, but for now, we must only catch our breath and get back to work.


For there is no remaining rest this side of heaven.


Still, we want to feel His closeness, and touch His presence. So we move from our planned alone times to more of a continual holy rhythm where our mind stays on God throughout our days – in a breath, in a prayer, in a glimpse heavenward, in our troubles, our joys, and fears.


There is much to do, and often the order of our work gets interrupted. Let’s go away with Him to a forgotten place, find strength and renewal. Yes Lord, take us to a holy rest!

One Reply

  1. Stephanie Wortel

    I, too, have this screaming bag of cats on my lap–almost constantly creating a sense of worldly anxiety and forbidding an opportunity for repose. What you’ve written reminded me of a part of the sermon yesterday, based on Romans 12:2 and Matthew 16:21-27.

    “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

    Father Ceriello pointed out that Sacrifice is an essential component of any loving relationship, which I found very poignant– sometimes that sacrifice means setting aside our daily hustle and bustle to spend time with Him. Thank you for your insights!

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