August has seen many of my emails returned by “out of office” alerts as Chaplains take the time to rest; a good practice, commended by Jesus when he said - “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest”. (Mark 6: 31). At the end of June I too was fortunate enough to be able to take a week of rest in Snowdonia enjoying the countryside and doing a bit of climbing. Shortly before going, I changed my alert tone for texts on my phone from a fairly annoying bleep, to the sound of a steam train going “Toot, toot”!
Now I’m not a Steam buff really, but there is something quite reassuring about the sight, sound, smell, and sound of a steam train, and to see the Snowdonia Mountain train power its way across Cwm Glas on its way to the summit of Wales’ highest peak is quite a sight. When we think back to the Golden Age of Steam (further back than I can remember if I’m honest!) names like the Orient Express, The Mallard and of course the Flying Scotsman sit within our history. Each of these trains had to be fuelled by coal and fed with water. Even though they would run up and down the track, with seemingly effortless ease, their engines would work with great efficiency and determination to pull passengers to their destination. Every one of them had to rest and be refuelled. Each of them had to take time to recover before they ran out of steam.
Just like the steam engine, we can go about our everyday lives with seemingly effortless ease, but our spiritual engines are hard at work. A visit to the Segregation unit, a Bible Study group led well, a difficult pastoral encounter, an opportunity to share our faith. So it is in our best interests that we make time to be with God all by ourselves, to spend time resting, being restored and refreshed.
In this small verse Jesus invites us to take a rest with him. We cannot run on empty for too long, or we will run out of steam, eventually we will come to a stuttering halt and need more than a holiday break to get back on track. But the Prophet Isaiah reminds us: “those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”. (Isa 40:31) “TOOT, TOOT”!