As a teenager I would sometimes go to a small lake on a neighboring property to fish. There was a favorite spot that produced lots of Crappie and Bluegill. I didn’t really pick that spot for the fishing rather because it was quiet. With six kids in the house, including a baby, finding peace and quiet was not possible. Compound that with the daily chores of a small farm and it is easy to understand the need to have a place of solitude.
I can vividly remember the fishing hole. This was a lake made by the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and was fed by a creek at one end and contained by an earthen dam at the other. Pecan, black walnut, and oak trees dominated the borders of the backwaters. There were a scattering of cedars that mostly existed in the fence lines that separated the properties owned by local farmers. On one side of the lake were a few small farms and the other side had no houses in sight. It was my quiet place.
At the time I didn’t understand that this is where I went to seek God. What usually started out as trying to catch fish ended with me thinking through the issues a teenager considers big problems. It almost always happened that at some point I felt a reassuring presence join me. It was as if a friend sat down beside me, not an imaginary friend but that feeling you get around a long time true friend. I miss those moments with God.
With great consistency I teach about the value of finding a quiet place to spend with God. It seems most people struggle to find the elusive quiet place. I try to use my office but unread books, papers not filed, social media posts, and a host of other voices scream for my attention. I try to use my lunchtime but the clock is never on my side.
Jesus even had times that it was difficult to find a place of privacy. Mark 6:31-34 The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. 31 Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
32 So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. 33 But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. 34 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the excitement of ministry we don’t take time to feed ourselves spiritually. Jesus is concerned about all his followers and invites us to join him for some quality companionship. It may be in a garden, office, or even right in the comfort of your own room. In my youth it was an alcove at a lake. My old fishing hole has long been changed by progress. It really wasn’t a magical place anyway, just a safe haven for a much younger me.
More often than not the distractions that keep me from finding a quiet place is caused by selfish ambition. It would be wise to learn what is valuable ministry needing immediate attention and what is just unfinished work that can wait. It would also be wise for me to shut off the electronics and spend a little more time asking God to join me for some conversation.
Rev. Burt Schwab