Today we continue to focus our prayers on the Coronavirus crisis, exploring Christ’s invitation to depth in a time of distraction.
Today I am reflecting on the invitation of Jesus to deeper intimacy and a more restful life in a time of personal distraction, fearful distortion and cultural disruption:
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. Mark 6:30-32
With flights cancelled, many offices closed, restaurants and gyms shut, I have an unprecedented, unexpected opportunity for intimacy with Jesus. He beckons my soul to a place of solitude, away from the crowd, saying: ‘Come with me by yourself to a quiet place and get some rest.’
Henri Nouwen writes in The Way of the Heart that solitude as ‘the furnace of transformation’. ‘Without it,’ he said, ‘we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter – the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.’
What are the characteristics and compulsions of my false self? What masks do I hide behind? What behaviours do I use to avoid God’s presence and to protect myself from change? I confess these defences and avoidance strategies to Jesus now.
Many wonderful stories are already coming in of people turning to faith in Jesus in response to this crisis. I take time now to name friends who aren’t Christians and loved ones whose usual securities are being shaken and whose normal defence mechanisms have been stripped away, asking that they might begin to consider Christ’s invitation to ‘Come with me’.
Christ’s invitation to solitude comes at a time when he is experiencing every kind of stress. Prior to this encounter, he’s been rejected in his hometown, then he’s heard the devastating news that his cousin John has been beheaded, and now he is so busy that he hasn’t even had time to eat.
It’s easy to think that I’ll finally get my prayer life sorted when all my problems go away. When things get a bit easier and I feel a bit more spiritual. But Jesus reminds me here that I have to be forceful with myself in seeking the solitude of his presence. That he awaits me in the midst of my distractions and problems.
A quiet time is a great start, but I suspect that when Jesus says ‘Come away with me to a quiet place and get some rest’ he is envisaging more than a few minutes. Is he inviting each of us to take an extended time of prayer and worship, or to study a part of the bible in-depth, or to start reading a particular Christian book?
At this time of so much distraction, I take hold of God’s assurance in Jeremiah 33 promising me fresh inspiration and revelation whenever I call on his name: ‘This is what the Lord says… “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ (Jeremiah 33:2-3)
Father, help me to live this day to the full,
being true to You, in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others,
being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost,
proclaiming Christ in all I do and say