By Jenny Parker
Boundaries. Self-care. Believe or not, Jesus was our model for how to set boundaries and how to practice good self-care. And he taught this to his disciples. Since we are his disciples (followers); this applies to us too. There are many places we find Jesus practicing healthy boundaries and/or self-care in the gospels. But here we will put the spotlight on one chapter, the chapter of Mark 6.
Mark 6 begins with Jesus being rejected in his hometown. The people there didn’t want to believe that a small-town carpenter could be so wise and perform such miracles. They minimized his acts and tried to invalidate who he was because of their own fears and disbelief. But that didn’t stop Jesus. He continued to go around to other villages and teach. And he commissioned the twelve disciples to do likewise. Jesus told the disciples to take nothing with them on their missionary journey, but to rely on God’s provision as they went. Then he told them something very important: “If any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, when you leave there, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them” Mark 6:11. In other words, do what you can; do what God has called you to do but leave the results to God and don’t try to control the outcome or the people involved. And though disappointing, if other people don’t respond well, let that be about them; don’t personalize it or own it or somehow try to manipulate them to see it your way; move on. Move on and keep doing the work the Lord has given you to do.
So that’s what the disciples did. The result was that they had an effective and productive ministry preaching repentance, driving out demons, anointing sick people with oil, and healing them. Afterwards they reconvened with Jesus and reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And here’s how Jesus responded: “He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.’ For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they went away in the boat by themselves to a remote place.” Mark 6:31-32. In the middle of their ministry, Jesus said, come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while. The need was so great and they had worked themselves so hard they didn’t even have time to eat. And yet Jesus, understanding the importance of self-care so that we can continue to serve others, told them to get away by themselves and rest.
See, Jesus knew that what was coming next was big. Next was the miraculous feeding of five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fish and later still in chapter 8, feeding four thousand. Jesus understood that to continue to serve and have compassion and to continue to be a supplier of other’s needs, He needed to get a way by himself, away from other people and rest. The biggest events of Jesus’ ministry and calling happened after He had gotten away from serving to spend time with the Father and rest. He was in the desert for forty days (Matthew 4) before being tempted by Satan and beginning his ministry of teaching, preaching and healing. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16) His ministry also ended the same way as he withdrew in the garden of Gethsemane to pray before being given over to death. (Mark 14:32-39)
Jesus understood that to keep giving and doing we have to get away to rest and get filled up. He knew sometimes (and regularly) we need to walk away from people and even good productive ministry to be by ourselves to rest and recharge. Let’s follow our Leader. He knows what’s best for us.