I know that has to sound disconcerting to you, right? Maybe a little unsocial? Insensitive maybe? Uncaring? How can I serve and love and be the Jesus follower I need to be if I’m unable to be reached? And you might be thinking that’s just wrong. You might be thinking that’s the opposite of what we are supposed to be as believers.
But what if it’s not?
Just stay with me. What if being inaccessible is exactly what makes us approachable and equips us to be Jesus to our loved ones, our friends, our coworkers and our congregations? What if removing ourselves from connectivity, just for a little while, is precisely what’s needed to be ourselves, the real us that God intended?
I’ll get back to this in a moment. Right now, I’ve got another question for you.
Have you ever left the house and forgot to grab your cell?
Yea! Me too! About two years ago I had to make a short day trip out. Nothing extended. Just a short drive to a nearby city to run a few errands. Halfway there, I realized I’d left my phone at home. It was weird at first. I didn’t panic. But I had the strong inclination to turn around and get my phone which meant traveling 35 miles back. And that would be a waste of time. So, I didn’t.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve become so used to being available all the time that it felt odd to NOT be available. I’ve had a mobile phone since, well, since they were the size of small bricks and weighed about the same. I’ve become accustomed to being “always available” for a while now.
Back to the story. It didn’t take long at all before the initial oddness of it all wore off! A little while later I noticed I was more relaxed — Like I didn’t feel the urge to check my pocket for the buzz of my phone.
Before long, I had forgotten all about my phone.
Many of us are so used to being always on, always available, that we don’t know what it feels like to be “off the grid”.
No, I’m not referring to cutting all ties and living in the woods somewhere. Although I could do that too! I’m talking about just being disconnected for a little while. No phone. No email. No pager (does anybody still carry a pager?). No tablet.
I will 100% agree that it is great to be reached when needed. It’s great to be able to give our loved ones a call or one of our kids a text just to check in with them. It’s super convenient when we need information, and let’s face it, none of us likes to wait for an answer. So we call or text the person right away to get what we need.
But what impact does that have on us? Come on, think about it — when was the last time you spent some time in solitude with no phone? I’m not talking about not using it. I’m talking about no phone as in it was not on you…at all.
You were inaccessible.
And while on earth, Jesus made it clear that he needed times when he was inaccessible. Mark records one of those times early in his Gospel. Like first chapter early!
Mark, the shortest of the Gospels, is traditionally believed to be written from the memories of the apostle Peter. Peter likely mentored Mark and shared much of his memories of Jesus with Mark. This makes Mark’s Gospel compelling. It’s very much a recollection of what Peter experienced and remembered.
Mark doesn’t add much style to his text. It’s not polished. But he makes crystal clear the person of Jesus. And it’s Jesus we’ll turn our focus to.
Mark gives us a glimpse of what we all experience — a busy day.
Jesus’ morning likely started with teaching and confronting the legal experts (Pharisees). His afternoon appointment book was filled with more teachings, healings of all kinds, and casting out of demons. By the evening Jesus probably wanted to just put his feet up and rest. But as the sun was setting, and he was about to relax, people from all over were bringing others to Jesus who needed healing from physical or spiritual infirmities. In fact, Mark writes that the entire town was knocking on the door where Jesus was staying! (1:33)
Implication? Jesus had a busy day. He was tired. He was probably running on empty. He needed to refuel, restore, and renew. He had been 100% accessible for too long. So, what did he do? He made himself inaccessible.
Mark writes in verse 35, “Early in the morning, well before sunrise,”
Well before sunrise. I don’t know what time sunrise was when this happened, but when I think of well before sunrise, 4 am comes to mind. That’s early. And I’m a morning person. Maybe well before sunrise is subjective. Maybe I want well before sunrise to be subjective.
Anyway, back to Mark.
Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. Mark 1:35
Deserted is more like a place of solitude. It’s deserted in that there’s no one around. Well yea there’s no one around! He’s up well before sunrise! But let’s not move past the word deserted too quickly. Even though it doesn’t literally mean a desert, don’t move past the idea of wilderness. Not a barren place, but a place where nobody is around. More importantly, a place where traditionally in Jewish scripture, is a place known for God meeting with his people and his people experiencing their God.
It’s this place Jesus secludes himself, so he can rejuvenate in God’s presence. It’s a deserted place where he finds God’s resources far exceed human resources, and he’s filled and renewed.
And for a while, he was inaccessible.
For a while, you need to be inaccessible. You need a place that you can go to, your deserted place, where you discover God’s unlimited resources far exceed your own.
And you are filled, renewed, and rejuvenated.
It’s not something you can do once a week and believe it to be enough. You eat and nourish your body more than once a week, don’t you? Imagine if you didn’t. Imagine what your body would feel like — what your attitude would be like. For those of us that get hangry, imagine what we would act like?
Right! We’d be cranky, hungry, weak, and ready to eat whatever! Even if it’s unhealthy — like a whole bag of Lay’s Potato chips — not that I’m speaking from experience…
No, you and I eat regularly. Why? Our bodies need continuous nourishment.
So, why do we take such great care of nourishing our bodies but not so much care to nourish our spirits? After all, it’s our bodies that will turn back to dust. But our spirits, well, they’re eternal.
Making yourself inaccessible regularly (even for 5 minutes in the morning) is spirit care. It’s providing the nourishment your spirit desperately needs so you can reach a desperate world around you. You cannot minister to others if you yourself have not been ministered to. And that requires you to be inaccessible for a little while.
Take this to your families, your spouse, your kids, those in your congregation. It’s incredibly difficult if not impossible to give to someone when you are running on empty yourself.
You can’t give out of what you don’t have.
What this means for all of us is we need to disconnect regularly.
And no, it doesn’t have to be well before sunrise! I happen to be freshest in the morning, so that’s my inaccessible time. What you need is to find your inaccessible time and start practicing it. Communicate it to those closest to you so they are aware you won’t be available for that time. Put it in your calendar. Block off that time. And do your best to maintain it.
If you miss a time, don’t sweat it. Don’t feel guilty. And don’t think you can make it up by doing 10 minutes the next day. Just stick with that 5 minutes. And if after practicing this for a while you want to extend it, take it to 10 minutes!
The point is spirit care. It’s making yourself inaccessible for a period of time so you’re completely accessible to God.
Here’s the thing. You’re laying the groundwork for yourself in those minutes practicing being inaccessible to others, but fully accessible to God. You are equipping your spirit. You’re nourishing your spirit so you can give to others not out of what’s left over, but what God just filled you with.
Sometimes…you need to be inaccessible.
The rest of my story
I made it home by dinner time, meaning, I had spent the entire day without my phone. I was inaccessible the whole day. And you know what? The world kept spinning. The sky didn’t fall. And nothing happened that couldn’t wait. Messages were there to reply to along with a few phone calls to return. But they all had this in common…
They all could wait. There was nothing so urgent that it couldn’t wait a few hours.
The one thing that was urgent that couldn’t wait was my spirit. It needed some God time. Some solitude. Some time to be…