A Deserted Place
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Are you having a bad day? Stressed at work? Are the kids and the spouse driving you crazy? Is the world expecting you to work miracles and you’re feeling worn out? I think Jesus felt like that sometimes too. (Okay, not about the kids and spouse.) He had a great way of dealing with stress though: he found a deserted place. I mean like, a LOT. In Matthew 4, Jesus went to the desert alone to fast and pray and to prepare for the temptations he would experience. In Luke, 6:12, Jesus departs to the mountain to pray, spending the night in prayer to God. In Mark 1:35, Jesus gets up early in the morning, when it was still dark, and went out to a deserted place and prayed. I could go on and on. The bible is nothing if not repetitious, and there’s a reason. Any good teacher knows repetition is the key to getting students to remember something important. So, if we’re seeing this again and again—Jesus going off to be alone in a deserted place—it must be important.
I see an interesting pattern in the repetitions. The book of Matthew tells us Jesus goes to a solitary place to pray after learning of John the Baptist’s murder. Then he performs the miracle of manifesting the loaves and fishes—where he feeds the 5,000. And then, the scene ends with Jesus going back up on the mountain by himself, to pray. The same miracle appears in the Gospel of Mark in chapter 6, and there, it says, “After bidding them farewell, he left for the mountain to pray.” When he comes back down from the mountain in that version, he walks on water for his disciples and proceeds to heal a multitude of people who have lined the streets.
The pattern is: pray in a solitary place, manifest a miracle, go pray in a deserted place, come back and perform healing miracles, and so on. There are more examples. In Luke, chapter 5, great multitudes come to Jesus to be healed, and the next line says, “Jesus, himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” Later on in Luke, chapter 6, Jesus went to a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. Guess what he does when he comes down? He heals a great multitude of people.
This is definitely a pattern of behavior. I always say Jesus is our great teacher and our great example for how to live our lives on earth, and I really believe that. Jesus is demonstrating self-care and spiritual practice. He’s instructing us how to take time to rest, be still, and most importantly, how to have a relationship with our creator God, the Universe, our Divine Source. Taking the time to do this might be as necessary to humans as getting enough food and sleep.
So, what does self-care and spiritual practice look like? Maybe you wonder, like me--what exactly was Jesus doing in these deserted places? I think he was praying, meditating, seeking connection with the Divine, being still, being open and receptive, and focused on being ready to receive inspiration. How do I know he was ready to receive inspiration? Because Jesus was frequently inspired. The man had great ideas and executed some pretty amazing miracles using the power of God. Maybe you need inspiration, too. Maybe you need to connect with your own God-like power. Look to the behavior of Jesus. Think self-care, spiritual practice, silence, and stillness.
It was Einstein who said, “I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the Truth comes to me.” The best part is, the places we go, the type of silent stillness we practice—whether it be prayer, meditation, contemplation, whatever—that can be different for each one of us. You don’t have to go spend forty days in the wilderness. A deserted place can be any room in your house.
For me, it’s a bathtub at 6:30am before anyone in the house is awake. I’ve had many a fantastic prayer session in there, reading spiritual texts and meditating in the silence. It is our intention to seek time with God that matters.
In Ellen Debenport’s book, The Five Principles, one of the principles she discusses is this idea of communion with God. She writes, “Just as Jesus relied on the Presence, so can we. In our prayer time, we may imagine ourselves communing with God, in conversation with Jesus, or listening to our spirit guides or angels offering reassurance or advice. Others may rest in the silence of their own hearts. Every person might carry a different picture of his or her connection with the divine, but the act of surrender for anyone is to relinquish the ego enough to learn and grow.”
When we seek that union daily, by separating ourselves from others, and going within in the stillness like Jesus did—I promise you, our lives are better for it. So in case you are seeking encouragement, permission, or a gentle nudge, go ahead and do it. Take the bubble bath, go for the walk, indulge in a nap. Find your deserted place to be alone. You deserve it.
Blessings, Rev Cynthia