It is not God’s will that we live under pressure all the time. In this verse, Jesus says this to His apostles right after they shared all they had done and taught. They go off in a boat to a deserted place, but people saw them and followed. When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them and He began to teach them many things and ultimately it leads to the feeding of the five thousand. (Mark 6:31-44) So, after a quick rest, they give what they can. I see the question is, “Can I give myself permission to replenish first, fill my needs and then serve as I can?” From experience, as I strengthen my awareness of God’s presence, even as I briefly breathe and meditate, it makes all the difference for me and others. However, in honesty, I don’t always take the time to put my needs first and then fall into weariness.
I marvel at the compassion to be kind to the apostles themselves first and then to others. It seems one can’t practice compassion with other people, if you can’t treat yourself kindly. We all need sacred space for healing, renewal and nourishment, a time to savor, learn, grow and reflect. Yet in dealing with the realities of aging family members, friends and ourselves, there seems little time to find the needed rest and restoration. Paul Tillich, theologian, says, “The first duty of love is to listen.” Too often I ignore my body and push through, no matter how tired I am. After years of doing this, in my own aging, I recognize how unkind I have been to myself. It then becomes a cycle, for I become cranky and out of sorts and unable to help anyone, least of all myself.
Gratefully, God keys my awareness and prunes the dead parts. When the new springs up, I relish the renewed level of compassion and acceptance of self, plus a deeper connection with the divine. It is spiritual work to care for another human being, honoring a person’s dignity and it is wisdom to fill our cup first, before we can adequately help anyone else. As we age, our bodies will diminish and yet our spirit grows with an increased dependency on God.
When we are weary and burdened, it can feel like a lamp about to go out and sometimes it starts to flicker. God is our strength and doesn’t want us on empty. Of course, we make sure our cars have gas and wonder why we do not do the same for our bodies. Even St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) wrote a prayer her ‘Busy, Frantic life,’ “I know that You are constantly beside me, yet I am usually so busy that I ignore you. If You want me to remain so, busy, please force me to think about and love You even in the midst of such hectic activity.” Despite your hectic activity, will you take time to come away to a deserted place and rest?