Sometimes I want to be alone.
I’m not sure if this is a result of being an only child or an Enneagram 4 (or a little of both), but sometimes I really just want to be by myself. I’m a worrier by nature and I often feel overwhelmed with various pressures related to the different realms of my life. I struggle with uncooperative children who put me on edge. I worry about finances and the health of the people dearest to me. I wonder what the future holds. And during these times, I want to sit in the quiet.
I think this has been made more apparent as I’ve traveled this journey of motherhood. I am told in different places that my children really ought to act in a certain way. That they should be respectful and obedient. That I should use some prescribed method to get them to act this way if they’re not doing it already. And be always ready to give an appropriate response for the rude behavior that is in them.
And of course there’s the comparison game too…. where did I go wrong that my kids act this way while Friend X’s children are shining examples of love, charity, and obeisance?
Sometimes these struggles coupled with all the other things that life throws at me get to be overwhelming and I want to be alone. I want to be able to sit and have a complete thought. I don’t want to be interrupted or hear a door slam or break up a fight….again.
I want some peace.
[Herod] sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to [Salome], and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.Matthew 14:10-21
This was the daily reading from the BCP a few months ago and is a story from the Bible that most people know well. Jesus feeding the 5,000 (as well as the 4,000), probably one of the best-known miracles from the Bible, is a story I’ve not only read myself many, many times, but I’ve also shared it with my children often. There’s a difference, though, between reading and really taking it in, and for some reason, that morning when I sat in my green chair and did my morning reading time, aspects of this passage just really came alive for me.
The first was that Jesus was sad. The Bible doesn’t flat out say this or even really imply it. But that first line, “now when Jesus heard this, he withdraw from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself,” caused me to pause and put myself in his position.
I felt sadness for Him.
John was probably the only man on earth who could even remotely understand what it was like to be Jesus. He was the eccentric, desert-dwelling, grasshopper-eating prophet who announced that Jesus was coming and everyone should get ready! He leaped in Elizabeth’s womb when a pregnant Mary came near! He baptized Jesus. He was Jesus’s cousin. And He decreased so Jesus could increase.
Jesus wanted to be alone with this news. Jesus wanted to mourn.
But then, even while he was trying to have a little time for his grief, the crowds caught wind of His self-imposed exile and “they followed him on foot from the towns.” And I was suddenly hit with a vision of myself hiding in our bedroom closet after some bad news has come or life is just particularly difficult, needing to take just a few minutes for myself to have a good cry or just take a few breaths, and suddenly there’s a small person who I love with all of my being but just can’t deal with in that moment pounding on the door or screaming from downstairs, asking what mama is doing in there? and why won’t she come out? and what is for lunch? and where is my red LEGO? and are we going anywhere today?
And in that moment when I read those few simple lines, I felt that, even in my struggles with motherhood and being constantly “on” for these precious people in my life, I have a High Priest who can sympathize with my weaknesses. He knew, even more so than this tired mom of two with a lot going on, what it’s like to be sad and tired and not have time to address either of these issues because of the needs of others who mean so very much to us.
Then there is also His response… “and he had compassion on them.” He did not sigh and close His eyes and hope they’d go away. He didn’t come out of the boat full of “righteous” anger and start bellowing about how He couldn’t have two seconds to Himself (this doesn’t sound like me….at all). He had compassion on them and healed the sick. He stayed with the crowd. He was patient and kind.
And then He thought about what to make for supper.
This is where I felt this passage acutely that day. He did not look around wondering what in the world He was supposed to do with all these people. He didn’t send them packing to the nearest town because there just wasn’t enough for everyone. He took what he had, which was just five loaves and two fishes, blessed it, and fed a crowd of at least 5,000 people to fullness. And I can do the same.
I can take the two hours of sleep I got last night, offer it up to God, and allow Him to get me through the day without feeling like quitting everything.
I can find the limited amount of free brain capacity I have leftover after agonizing over whatever Very Big Things are happening in my life right now, offer it up to God, and allow Him to bless my family with it.
I can cling to the last two ounces of patience left in my whole body, offer it up to God, and make it to bedtime without demoralizing anyone, including myself.
I do not have to put the burden of the world on my shoulders every day and, in fact, I’m not supposed to. This is most likely not profound for most people who have read this passage (or any part of the New Testament), but in that moment, it was profound for me and was something I needed to hear.
I am decreased, but He can increase.