Hi, Rob here. There’s a little phrase in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel that gives us great insight into the internal world of Jesus: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed (Mark 1:35).” Jesus did whatever it took to maintain a vital connection with his Father. His days were full of teaching, healing and deliverance. People were demanding of his time and energy. Evil was being exposed around him and needing to be confronted. Mark makes it clear that Jesus was compassionate, had authority and took action against evil for people. But he also makes it clear that Jesus was able to do all of this because he maintained a vital prayer connection to his Father.
When we’re feeling busy and overwhelmed the temptation for us is to ‘check out’ rather than ‘check in.’ A couple of nights ago I got home feeling tired after a trying couple of days and it felt like utter chaos. I really wanted to go to the bedroom, check facebook, grab a beer and crash. But reality called. The kids had swimming and other engagements so I had to engage. A deep breath, a quick prayer, an act of will and we were away. I chose to check in not check out. Jesus faced overwhelming chaos everywhere he went. The crowds pressed in and the more Jesus gave the more they demanded from him. This is the background to him seeking the Father while it was still dark. The busier and more chaotic life is, the more urgent is our need to check in, not check out. Before we can engage with the chaotic reality of life we need to engage with our Father. We need to be reminded of who we are in him; that we are sons and daughters, we are beloved, we are not God and we’re not in charge so we can surrender the chaos into his hands to bring about order.
The upshot of Jesus’ time of solitude is that he made a decision to move on from Capernaum for a short time to some nearby villages. It enabled his mission to reach more people. This, Jesus said, was why he had come. In other words, time with the Father enabled Jesus to do the thing that was most important and put aside the immediate demands for a time. This is what we all need! We need God’s help to see what is most important and find the strength to put aside the urgent for the necessary. We can only find this strength if we check in. We can’t find it if we check out. We have to do what it takes to maintain a vital connection with Christ and the Father so that we are living out of their love, strength and wisdom. If we don’t, the chaos nearly always overwhelms us in the end.
So, how do we do this? We need to nurture some ‘habits of the heart’. For Jesus, rising early to take advantage of stillness and silence was his habit. A short time of prayer before I get up is one of mine, as is a walk round the park on work days. We need these habits to keep us attuned to the Father’s voice and our Shepherd’s voice. What are your habits? How are they going? Do you need to rediscover them? Add to them? Let some go that aren’t helping and try something else? Do it. Do what it takes! It’s too important not to.