Though I am not a gardener, I know this is a time of year when many enjoy paging through seed catalogs and laying out plans for spring planting. It is the ultimate act of resilience (or resistance?) to envision planting, growth, and harvest when the ground is hard and snow-covered.
Although climate change is impacting familiar growing rhythms, we know that spring will come. I wonder at the resilience and resistance strategies of those who don’t know when their winters will end: those in war zones, those in acute mental health crisis, those who wait for news of a loved one’s safety, those confined by the systemic -isms that prevent opportunity. It is essential to hold out hope that someday things will be different, lest we accept an unacceptable status quo. But how do we keep going?
In this week’s gospel reading (another race through several important ministry moments!), Mark tells us that Jesus went “early in the morning, well before sunrise…to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer” (1:35). The day before had been full to the brim with crowds, healings, demon silencing, and getting to know his new BFFs. That Jesus would opt to cut his sleep short that morning is an absolute wonder to my sleep-deprived self.
But on the other hand, having a time and a place that was his and God’s alone makes perfect sense. When else would he have been able to envision the kin-dom he heralded? When else could he step away from the demands to discern the most needed next step? Where else could he set perceptions and expectations aside and listen for the voice of the One who knew him and loved him best? The deserted place wasn’t an escape or a detour; it was a waypoint of revelation and restoration that grounded the entire journey.
It may not seem advisable in the dead of winter (literal or otherwise) to seek out further “desertion.” But there are things revealed in the dark, on our own, away from the grind, excitement, and drudgery that are harder to see in the light of day. May God guide us safely to and from such deserted places, that we might meet the world as it is with the confidence that other days are yet ahead.