I recently had the opportunity to join our "New Heads University" participants in a discussion on renewal. This is the time of the year where everyone is "running on fumes" and I wanted to share some thoughts with those who were completing their first year of headship during the most turbulent year that most of us have experienced in our careers.
We explored Jesus' habit of retreating to a quiet or lonely place for moments of prayer and refreshment throughout his ministry. My meditation explored the question of, "Why?" More specifically, why is this mentioned so consistently throughout the gospel texts and what is Jesus modeling for us today?
I propose that there are at least three reasons for this pattern in the ministry of Christ.
First, I think Jesus withdraws to escape the noise. It's very difficult to involve oneself in deep thinking without tuning out the noise of everyday life. And, there are different "types" of noise, too. Not only do we have to navigate the noisiness of our campuses, but we are also bombarded by digital noise on a constant basis (e-mail, text messages, notifications, pings and dings, etc). Getting away allows you to open up mental bandwidth for contemplation and reflection.
I think the second reason Jesus withdraws is to reconnect with his Father. Years like this tend to bring lots of big questions to the table. What are the values of our community? Am I making the right decisions as the leader? Is our school headed in the right direction? For that matter, am I in the right place? It is difficult for us to work through these types of deep questions if we aren't also rooted in prayer. Withdrawing from our regular routine allows us time to reconnect to the centering force that fuels all discernment for us and for our community.
Finally, I think Jesus simply needed to recharge his batteries. If we really believe that Jesus was truly God and truly man, then he experienced human tiredness and fatigue in the same way that each and every one of us does. I think he was modeling the importance of rest and our need to embrace it (as oppose to bemoan it) for ourselves and for those around us. If the Son of God needed some time off before moving forward, who are we to think that we don't?
I know that few of us had a "real" time of withdraw and reflection last summer. My hope and prayer is that you will take the model of Christ to heart and plan for some time this summer to withdraw, reconnect, and recharge.