This is what the disciples say to Jesus in Mark chapter 1 verse 37. ‘Everyone is looking for you!‘
Jesus has got up early, after being ridiculously busy it seems pretty much as soon as he has been baptised he is ‘immediately’ doing this and ‘immediately’ doing that – at least, that’s how Mark writes his gospel . . . Breathlessly.
Anyway, if he is going to be this crazy busy, he needs time with his Father – recharge, a bit of peace – while it is still dark, he heads off to find it.
Peace and space to pray.
The disciples are having none of it and as soon as they are awake they are off trying to track him down, they find him – and, not only do they want to know where he is, everyone else does too.
Maybe they started out looking for him by belting around in a frenzy shouting, ‘have you seen Jesus?’ . . . . I have never had ministry days like Jesus. But, I have had days when it seems everyone wants a piece of me.
Life in ministry can feel like that – you know, your life stops actually being your own. Everyone owns a piece of your time, everyone expects stuff from you, and maybe they don’t always recognise that you have a life, a family, a home . . . Some people never stop, and they expect those around them to be the same.
Or, being in ministry maybe you feel you ‘owe’ it to always be available so that no one every asks ‘where are you?’ Because you are always there. We cannot and should not always be there. I once worked for a church that gave me a flat to live in. A ground floor flat and, in the 1st floor flat lived a member of the church. It was pretty hard to have my own space, especially at weekends. We shared a garden and she would regularly walk round the garden, across the patio and peer in through my lounge windows – either to check I was in (and reading the bible or preparing a talk) or to check I was out (evangelising the neighbourhood). Well, I was in my mid 20s and generally didn’t get up before 11am on a Saturday morning. It was on one such Saturday morning as I was lounging around in my pyjamas – mostly going backwards and forwards between the kitchen and my nice warm bed – when there was a knock on my front door.
I decided to ignore it. The knock was repeated. I thought I would just keep quiet – as you do. I then heard the letter box flap being lifted and a voice speaking through it said, ‘Alasdair are you there?’ I recognised the voice, it was one of the deacons from the church. Again, I thought to myself, it’s Saturday – leave me alone! Then, to my astonishment, I heard a key in the lock and they were entering the flat. I was in my pyjamas in the bedroom and a middle aged lady had just let herself in to my flat.
What was she doing? Pushing the door to my bedroom, she then entered and exclaimed, ‘what are you doing?’ (Seriously, what am I doing?!) . . . . I think I muttered something about making a cup of tea, I made her one too (once I had got dressed). I cannot believe this happened, I wonder if I have a false memory or something. I am older now, I have discovered a few things about being in ministry – full time now for 22 years . . . And here is the thing- everyone, at times, MIGHT be looking for you – but, if you want to survive in ministry, sometimes you just need to not be found.
Rest is vital, space is vital, your OWN time with your friends who you are not constantly trying to disciple or nurture or evangelise or do a ministry thing to or with, time to watch a film without thinking you need to squeeze an illustration out of it for a talk otherwise it is a waste of your precious time to be watching it, you need space to have a glass of wine, or a pint, space for football or space when you are not watching football because there is a great allegory there to do with team work and body of Christ.
It does not matter that you cannot be found. Switch off too the things that make you contactable when you are supposed to be switched off. Turn off your mobile, give your friend your iPad . . . Yes, there is ministry to be done – because it is never “done”.
However, it is ‘finished’.
Whether it is all the immediate stuff in Marks gospel; all the worry of his disciples; for all the pain of the people; for all the trials and tribulations; for those times when you feel and you think and say, ‘why can’t they leave me in peace for five minutes!’
It is finished, it is completed.
Jesus accomplished something so completely on the cross that we will only discover the true extent of when we reach eternal rest. There might have been desperation in the disciples voices, but even Jesus needed time with his Father, even Jesus needed to get away from it all, even Jesus.
We need to be still with the Father if we are to do ministry for the Father. Don’t get cross with yourself if you loose it when people are constantly after you and expect you to meet their needs, but – do take it as a warning that you need space, time, peace, quiet and prayer.
We need to not worry if we are not found by the masses of people after us, we need sometimes to be only found in Him.