Mark 6:30-34

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:30-34

The message for this Monday morning is simple: We do our best when the best we do is rest.

It seems counter-intuitive. We have a lifetime of well-meaning advice behind us telling us to work as hard as we can, not just to get to the front of the line but to stay there. We’re told that “successful people do what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do.” And, in all of that, the sad truth is that there is not always going to be something more THAT we can do, there’s always more THAN we can possibly get to.

People call it a rat race for good reason.

Yesterday a middle school mom told me about the demands being placed on her middle school child. He is a good student. He is diligent and conscientious and he wants to do well. But the sheer amount of work he is expected to do every week is overwhelming. I told her that I think I smell a rat – and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was until I read our text for this morning.

Jesus’ friends get back to him after giving it their best to do what they had been taught by him to do and Jesus invites them to rest. To REST. To take some time. To get away. So I’ll say it again, we do our best when the best we do is rest.

That is how we are designed to work. That is how our bodies are designed to work. We are not designed to be perpetual motion machines. In the old days when I used to be an athlete, no one pointed out to me that my body needed the time to recuperate after the stress of practice – and that resting well was required to truly benefit from the stress. I grew up during the days when wanting a drink of water during football practice was a sign of weakness. That’s crazy! That is not how a body is designed to work.

Even in the creation story, six days of work and one day of rest still left plenty of time to work!

So Jesus put his friends in a boat and headed out in search of a peaceful cove – but the crowds wouldn’t let them get away. Moral of that story – don’t expect the world around you to take care of your need for rest. You have to take charge of that. You have to set the boundaries to see that your own needs for rest get met. You have to decide what works for you.

Personally, I take plenty of time for rest in my life. I like to go to bed early and I like to get up early. Most days begin with at least 3 hours of quiet time, which includes writing down these reflections on scripture. I read. I try to learn new things every day. Some days I go for walks. I always take Fridays off and I only work on Saturdays when there is something that needs to get done. I have a lot of systems and routines that help lots of things take care of themselves.

The text ends by telling us that Jesus looked out at the crowds that had followed them on shore and he had compassion for them. He said that looked to him like sheep without a shepherd. I’m thinking that it was his own awareness of his need for rest – and his willingness to take a little boat ride to get the rest that he needed – that refilled his compassion tank and allowed him to be fully available to the flock. We do our best when the best we do is rest.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we stand today at the beginning of a new week. Thank you for the meaningful ways we will use our time this week. To work. To serve. To learn. To contribute, in our own small ways, to the common good of the world. Help us not only do our best but help us create space to rest for, in that, we know we are following you well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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