At Emery House, our rural monastery, numerous windows invite looking out at the meadow and fields, the vegetation and animals. Part of the glory of rural spaces is the view. They invite looking and walking or—as I did last week—snow shoeing, exploring the expansive, wondering at beauty. They invite gazing up at the sky, at clouds and birds swirling, and then stars twinkling. Expansive views, as too with the ocean, give perspective, reminding us there is so much more.
Expansive views speak like the prophet Isaiah, chiding and reminding us of the truth: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? Have it not been told you from the beginning? [God] is the one who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants, [we] are like grasshoppers.”
That expansive sky – he pulls it out like a curtain. Earthly rulers pale in comparison. God is huge. God knows and holds everything.
Why do you say: “My way is hidden from God?” Why do you think God has forgotten you?
Remember who God is—“the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow faint or weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”
We need expansive views and frequent reminders in many forms because we are often weary. We humans, even the young, will fall exhausted. We forget and we think God has forgotten us. We lose focus.
Part of the good news is God knows that experience firsthand. Being human, Jesus got weary. Remember him falling exhausted into the boat, sleeping soundly even through a sudden storm which made others fear for their lives. Being human, Jesus also forgot and even felt forgotten. He too lost focus.
In the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus seems to be always on the move. Immediately doing this and immediately doing that. In today’s text, Jesus had just been teaching and healing at the synagogue. Entering a home, he finds Simon’s mother-in-law sick, and heals her at once. That evening their house becomes the hub. “The whole city gathered around the door.” Imagine how tiring! Jesus keeps working healing many.
Jesus faced an endless supply of need and an overwhelming schedule. Jesus got weary. Not simply by the work but also the human inner challenges. I’m sure he questioned: What’s next? Will there be enough? What am I supposed to do? Does God really understand? Jesus grieved loss, felt heartache, got frustrated by life in community.
How did he manage? Being human, getting faint and weary, how did Jesus live?
“In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”
Jesus knew what was coming. He knew that at dawn or before, people would gather with requests. The “to do” list would sprout. Jesus knew the pain and questions of his own heart would be present. Jesus knew waiting with God to be primary and sustaining. So Jesus stopped and went away to pray.
We don’t know how Jesus prayed, and that doesn’t matter. There are endless ways. We just know he was alone out in the dark.
Being in the dark also changes our perspective. We can’t see as much, certainly not fully or clearly. We can see but dimly and differently, differently each night as the lunar light waxes and wanes, as the moon grows slowly from sliver to full face, disappearing and then returning. Being in the dark reminds us of vistas we can’t see during the day, reminds us we’re part of a galaxy, that there is so much more beyond us.
Perhaps when praying in out in the dark, Jesus recalled scripture like this from Isaiah: “Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these [stars]? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.” Look up at the stars. See the great expanse. You are a small part in a vast universe. As God knows each star, so God knows you by name and loves you personally.
What weighs on you? What is pressing or tiring? What, literally or figuratively, makes you faint?
Jesus has been there, has had that kind of experience. Remember how he handled it.
Stop and pray. Wait on the Lord. Rest in that relationship. Remember and stand on promises: “Those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
What may help prompt that perspective, renew that reminder? Look out or look up at something expansive. Gaze at the sky or ocean, even—dare I say—snow, or pray in the dark. Wherever and however, stop, look, and wait for the Lord. God is bigger and beyond, with far more, and as God provided for Jesus, so God will provide for you.
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