Luke 5:15-16 (CEV)
15 News about Jesus kept spreading. Large crowds came to listen to him teach and to be healed of their diseases. 16 But Jesus would often go to some place where he could be alone and pray.
A few years ago, our friend Markku built us an amazing Finnish sauna. It’s made with cedar that was treated in peat over in Finland and then shipped over here. The lighting is soft and subtle. The heat from the furnace is hot and steamy. It digs deep into the centre of my joints and sucks the pain right out of them.
To get to the sauna at our house, you have to go downstairs (which means you can close the door). Then you go into the bathroom (which means you can close – and lock – another door). And then, when you’re ready, you go into the sauna (which has yet another door to close)! And so when life gets busy, and my phone won’t stop going off, or there are tears that need to be cried over a baby gone too soon, or I’ve spent more time driving kids to activities and appointments than I would have spent at a full time job, I go down the stairs, shutting one, two, three doors behind me, and step into the sauna, and breathe.
I didn’t use to do this. For one thing, I didn’t use to have a sauna. But there are many other ways we can stop and make time for ourselves, time to care for our self, time to refresh and recharge, time to reconnect with God and breathe in the knowledge that God loves us and cares for us. No, I didn’t use to do this because I used to think that to be able to stop I had to finish everything else first. And I also thought that to be a good person I had to do all the things for all the people all the time. And I also thought that God and my family and the people I cared about needed me to do these things and that if I didn’t do them, someone would be mad at me.
So I did. I readily and easily took on a family tendency towards workaholism, and all of the physical, emotional, relational and spiritual problems that brings.
And then God showed up one day as I broke down with nothing left in me, and showed me this verse. The message was pretty clear. If even in the midst of the busy, chaotic need of the crowds pressing in on him to hear his words and be healed by his touch Jesus still thought it was important to get away by himself to be alone and pray, than it was probably something I should consider doing from time to time.
This kind of self-care is tricky for those of us who are do-ers because it feels like we’re skipping work. It feels like we’re falling behind. Sometimes it even feels like the dreaded “being lazy”. But I think Jesus understood something that we could stand to learn from: reorienting ourselves with God is what enables us to actually live out our purpose and mission and calling in life. It’s what enables us to see the problems at hand clearly and effectively. It’s what keeps us filled with compassion for those we are working for. And most of all, it’s what allows us to stay truthful about how God sees us in a world with a thousand ideas about who we are and how much we’re worth.
Because it’s in these moments as we breathe deep the breath of God that we can hear him say, “I love you. You are mine. Not because of what you have done or will done, what you have said or will say, what you have cleaned or built or changed or saved or bought or cooked or otherwise spent yourself doing, but because I made you and I created you and I love you and you are mine.” And as we sit and breathe deep God’s love for us, we have the opportunity to offer the truth of our hearts to him. The pain of attending that funeral you didn’t want to have reason to be at? Offer that truth to God. The exhaustion of too many days without rest? Offer that truth to God. The remorse you feel over those tired words you wish you hadn’t said to your partner or your children? Offer that truth to God. Somehow, in a way I don’t completely understand, when we are honest with these dark places in ourselves before God, and then chose to breathe deep the love of God into the very centre of our being, there is a light and a freedom and an ability to try again that enters in to the deepest recesses of our souls and gives us the strength to open the door and come out and try again.
- When was the last time you snuck away for some of this kind of solitude?
- If you regularly take time to ‘breathe deep’, where do you do that? What about that space helps you to reconnect with God? Is there something you can do to help yourself be more consistent in these times, or enter more fully into this practice?
- If you haven’t regularly taken time to ‘breathe deep’, what do you find stops you? Is it a feeling that you “can’t” stop? Or uncertainty about what you might find if you do stop? Or something else entirely?
- Would you be willing to try ‘breathing deep’ this week? I know it can often be difficult to enter into this type of experience. I found the ‘Centering Prayer’ by The Liturgists to be very helpful as I first explored this type of practice. They also did a second recording here, if you scroll to the bottom of the album. Both are available for free.