By David Faust
Today most cars shift gears automatically, but drivers who grew up prior to 1970 remember manual transmissions. Eventually it became second nature, but at first it was difficult to shift gears. Everything had to synchronize. Left foot on the clutch. Right foot on the accelerator. Right hand on the stick. Lots of grinding and jerking tested cars’ transmissions and parents’ patience while young drivers learned the art of shifting gears.
Life requires us to shift gears and move smoothly from one role or responsibility to another. One moment a mom is her children’s counselor and nurse, the next moment she’s their judge and jury. The CEO calls the shots at work, but he must shift gears when it’s time to interact with his teenage son or his small group at church.
Ministers do a lot of gear-shifting. In the same day they might lead a strategy session with staff, counsel a husband and wife, chair a finance meeting, visit a hospital patient, teach a Bible study, answer theological questions via e-mail, preside over a funeral service, and speak for a banquet. Emotions shift quickly from anger to sadness, from hearty laughter to quiet contemplation.
The Demands of Public Service
According to Mark’s Gospel, a large crowd came to Jesus for healing long after the sun had set. The demands must have seemed overwhelming. So many people sought Jesus’ attention that “the whole town gathered at the door” (1:32, 33).
“Many who had various diseases” overflowed the house and spilled onto the street (v. 34). Mothers brought their sick babies hoping for a miracle. Blind men came yearning to see again, led along by their friends. Moans and coughs filled the air, along with shouts of joy when Jesus healed the sick. A combination of terror and relief must have moved through the crowd when Jesus “drove out many demons” (v. 34). When the crowd finally drifted away late that night, Jesus must have felt exhausted.
Schoolteachers, social workers, police officers, bus drivers, and store clerks know how tiring it can be to work with the public. People-helping is deeply rewarding but emotionally draining. Sometimes the harvest is plentiful but the workers are tired.
The Need for Private Prayer
After a busy day dealing with the crowds, Jesus shifted gears and took time to be alone. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (v. 35).
All of us need a solitary place where we can recharge our spiritual batteries. My wife calls it a “peace place.” For some, it’s a secluded spot in the backyard, a bench in a local park, or a quiet room in the house. For others, it’s reading the Bible on an iPad while riding the bus to work, or sitting at the kitchen table with a morning cup of coffee and a devotional book.
Whether we’re introverts or extraverts, we all need time to be with others and time to be alone. Our souls long for a healthy rhythm of work and rest, public service and private prayer. Even Jesus occasionally needed to gear it down and spend time alone with the heavenly Father. What should we do when life is revving out of control? Maybe it’s time to shift gears.
1. What refreshes you more—being with others or being alone?
2. Is God leading you to invest more time in public service or in private prayer?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for April 7, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 Corinthians 1:1–17
Joshua 1, 2
1 Corinthians 1:18–31
1 Corinthians 2
Joshua 6, 7
1 Corinthians 3
Joshua 8, 9
1 Corinthians 4
1 Corinthians 5
Joshua 13, 14