Last week I went out for breakfast by myself. I had a day off and I wanted to go out and try somewhere new. My mind and emotions had started to feel a bit zombie-like – rotting, a bit slow and needing more brains – so I thought an outing would be refreshing and restoring. So I took myself off to Broadbeach and thought, “I’m going to find somewhere nice and quiet to relax and enjoy breakfast and a coffee”. It was mid-morning on a Tuesday, so I was visualizing numerous cafes that offered an oasis of quiet and calm. But reality soon descended. “Why are there no parks? Why are there people spilling out of cafes? It’s 10:30am on a Tuesday! What is going on?” I reminded myself of my purpose and resolved to just find a car park and go for a walk. “No problem, focus on that relaxation”.
So, I finally find a car park and start walking. I can’t seem to find anywhere with a free table, but eventually I find a place where there aren’t too many people and sit down. I proceed to order what I soon realize is the most expensive breakfast I have ever purchased! “Oh well”, I think, “I will still enjoy it. I’m sitting outside in the nice fresh air”…. “oh wait, I’m downwind from a couple of people who are smoking.” As I look around me my next thought is “Um, what is that yellow substance oozing down the pillar?”. It seems to be coming from roof vents that have been taped over with cardboard and are now falling off. I actually have a photo because I thought it was amusing so I sent it to my wife. See it here: https://imgur.com/a/MbbhUEh
So, how did my relaxing morning go? Funnily enough, I managed to enjoy myself despite all of my unmet expectations. I may not have eaten at a nice, affordable place, over-looking the sea, quiet, easy to find with abundant parking. But I knew I needed this little break and letting these things ruin it wouldn’t be helpful.
Why did I need a break? Well, I have felt weighed down lately, as I’m guessing many people have. There is a joke going around at the moment that says, “Nobody in 2015 got the answer right to the question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?.” I was reading our Bible passage from last Sunday (Mark 1:14-45) and I noticed an interesting sequence of events. Jesus is establishing His ministry in these verses. He is teaching His disciples, He is healing people and driving out unclean spirits. One of the spirits He drives out starts to proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God and Jesus “sternly” tells the spirit to be quiet. It struck me that this is a strange thing to do, telling a spirit to be quiet because it is telling the truth. There was certainly some frustration for Jesus here and the passage goes on to explain that He didn’t want His identity to be spread too far at this stage in his ministry. Later in the passage, a whole village comes to see him and while they are waiting He says to His disciples “enough here, let’s move on”. I can’t imagine this would have been an easy decision for Jesus, as we know from Scripture that He felt genuine compassion for people in need. But He knew what He was called to do and he needed to move on. He goes on to heal a man with leprosy and again Jesus commands this man, “do not tell people who I am”. But what does the man go out and do? He tells everyone! I imagine Jesus’ face here would be similar to that of a sighing parent, who has just watched their child do exactly what they asked them not to do.
These past few months I can identify with frustration, unmet expectations and how things just don’t work out the way you would like them to. I think perhaps the whole world can relate to a collective sigh of resignation to the reality of the global pandemic and the disappointments, cancelled plans, fear and worry it has bought us this year.
So why does this matter? Well, we are told that Jesus experienced life just like each one of us and I can imagine that Jesus sometimes wondered if what He was doing was working. People were draining, frustrating, selfish and didn’t do what He asked them to. We are told that he would spend time with God and take time out when He was exhausted. He wisely took downtime to realign with God and the purpose of His ministry. Jesus knew he needed to be refreshed and restored by God in order to find the headspace He needed to pour Himself out in His ministry and carry the burden of others.
The trouble is that our frustrations can so easily become our focus, feeding our worry and anxiety about the next problem, the next hurdle. There will always be people who frustrate us, disappointments, unmet expectations and things that weigh us down.
I can easily get caught up in my own expectations. In this example of having breakfast, I needed the time away and it was important for me to take time to actively enjoy the good things in life and to thank God for them. I’ve found that I need to take some time away and purposefully be grateful for what I have and what I’m doing, and for what God has done and is doing beyond what I can see and understand. Otherwise I shuffle along in life like a zombie, never truly taking in what is around me and noticing God’s love in the midst of my frustration. If Jesus needed time away with His father to be refreshed and restored from the demands of life, how much more so do we?