I love to hike. I try to make time once or twice a week to get out and enjoy the beauty of creation, the beauty of our island. I love to explore new trails and challenge myself, but I also have a few favorite trails. I find peace in their familiarity and their tranquility. For me, they feel like home. Last week, I was hiking with my dog on one of my very favorites, Maunawili Trail. I had been quite stressed and I thought that by getting out into nature, I’d be able to release some of that baggage that I was carrying. The first few minutes were wonderful, but soon, I found my mind wandering back to my to-do list. I tried to focus on the present, but as I continued on in my hike, I found myself fretting more and more. Why couldn’t I just relax and enjoy? Why were my worries following me?
When Jesus’ ministry was in full swing, he was often bombarded with requests – to teach, to heal, to listen, and to eat. I can only imagine that it must have been exhausting! Our scriptures tell us that he would often go off by himself, seeking some silence in order to pray. On one such occasion, when Jesus was in Galilee, our scriptures tell us that he “withdrew to a solitary place” (Matthew 14:13). Soon, though, the crowds found him and began clamoring again for his teaching. So Jesus, got up and went back to work.
I think that many of us find ourselves with a similar challenge. Often, our times of silent retreat or prayer are interrupted – by our loved ones, our pets, our phones, or our obligations. And even when we aren’t interrupted by something external, we sometimes find that our thoughts and worries are like a beating drum that we can’t seem to ignore. So often, we bring the clamor our relationships and entanglements with us wherever we go. And even when we take time away, we can’t peel our eyes away from what looms ahead on our calendars. We watch it approach, just as Jesus watched that crowd get closer and closer.
Jesus couldn’t escape the clamor, but I don’t think that his solitary time was ruined or was a waste. Instead, I believe that perhaps by going to a deserted place, Jesus was able to re-center himself and take a different perspective on the noise. Perhaps in those times of prayerful retreat, the Spirit was able to help Jesus tease apart the noise. To disentangle the notes of high need from the low notes that were meant to distract or discourage. Perhaps the Spirit worked in Christ’s heart so that he could hear the dissonant chords within his ministry with a divine and compassionate ear. Perhaps through those times of prayer, Christ was able to bring a heart of peace back to the crowd.
I hope that’s the case. I pray that it is. Because if God could work through the noise of the crowd in Jesus’ life, then surely, God can work through the noise of my to-do lists as I do my best to quiet my heart. Surely God can work in my heart, too, to give me a new and divine perspective on the things I am carrying with me. This is my prayer for us all.