Thursday, August 20, 2009

Alone with the Masses
By Brenda Black

I slumped into the webbed patio chair and faced south. The setting sun warmed my right cheek and a tepid breeze indicated changing weather. With eyes closed, I pictured serenity, then opened them to realize it was before me. Home. Away from the clamor of barking peddlers and whirring carnival rides. Far removed from the cattle fans and generators and incessant PA announcements inviting fair goers to the next scheduled venue. I was free of the pressing crowds and the chaos. Instead I sat quietly with my black lab at my feet. Home.

My bed felt extra soft; my husband's welcome hug engulfing and safe. And the quiet was tangible that first day back at the ranch. I did not realize how stressed my constitution until I merged from State Fair hype to calm refuge surrounded by grass, sky and trees. With an audible sigh and extended push of air over pursed lips, I let the past week of noise, nary any sleep and inconvenient camping in a livestock trailer melt away from my mind and body.

Time alone is healing. Quiet moments, revealing. In this busy world it is challenging to find such solace, especially when it is needed most. At just the moment when you desire solitude, someone will seek your companionship. Mark my words.

After exhausting, hot days of fair duties, it typically bumped 11:00 p.m. before I welcomed the trickling campground shower then my make-shift bed. Ironically, at that same time most evenings, folks would show up at my trailer ready to visit. I stepped out one night to find four teens waiting for my hospitality. Another night, the daughter of an old family friend drove an hour to see us and we crammed in a life-time between 10 and 12 p.m. Night after night, as some got their second wind, mine was going flat.

It didn't change when I arrived home depleted of energy and swamped with dirty laundry and delinquent assignments. People found me – they needed a listening ear or advise. They wanted my attention and had news to share. And I obliged out of love and concern, but mostly because it is what my Lord has done.

When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded, “he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

“As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, 'This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.'

“Jesus replied, 'They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.'” (Matthew 14:13-16)

In the midst of terrible grief, when Christ wanted most to be left alone to deal with the shocking news of John's heinous execution, he is called to have compassion on the masses. My heart goes out to Jesus in this circumstance. He lays aside his anguish and weariness to meet the needs of others when he needed rest himself.

After feeding 5,000 with two fish and five loaves, “immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.” (vs. 22) He had clean up duty, bid adieu to the guests and sought once again refuge and rest. “After he had dismissed them, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” (vs. 23-24)

I wonder how long Jesus got. Was it five minutes or an hour? Had he just found the perfect stump to be alone and spotted from atop the mountain the sea-tossed dingy filled with his friends in jeopardy. In the middle of the night, between 3 and 6 a.m., he trekked down that mountain and walked on water to help people again.

My Lord is hospitable. He is accommodating and kind. Christ is compassionate while grieving, a servant while weary and always a Savior, even when we call upon Him in the darkest span of night.

Sure, I like some quiet time for myself. I grow tired and sometimes the last thing I feel is compassion or patience for those who demand my time and energy. But then I look at my Jesus and I see the significance of service in spite of self. God will supply the energy. He will impart the wisdom or tenderness necessary to minister to those who need hospitality even when you think you don't have it to give. And when you get the opportunity to steal away with the Lord again, he'll whisper in your ear, “If you've done it unto the least of these, you've done it unto me.”

Peace comes in many forms. A gentle breeze, a tree frog serenade, a pet curled at your feet. And it also arrives in mysterious ways, such as serving others when you must depend fully on the Lord to provide the strength.

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