Dead Hydrangeas and Holy Naps

I recently came across a really simple but jarringly powerful verse in the book of Mark. Reading from Mark 6:30-31 it says, “The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”

I love this verse. I think it is so telling that in this exchange with Jesus, these disciples are so pumped to discuss everything that they have been doing and teaching in the name of following Jesus’ example. They are ready for him to be whipping out the gold stars and nominating players of the week. 

But Jesus doesn’t even respond to their progress reports.

If I was a disciple here, I would be crushed. Look at my checklist— every item was crossed off! Look at what ‘reviews’ are being left regarding my ministry! Look at how much I proved that I am worthy to be called your disciple.

A few years back, I heard on a podcast a retreat center director explaining that when he leads a session, his first instruction for participants is to not disclose what they do for a living. He explained that far too often, we as humans get so caught up in identifying ourselves primarily by our jobs. He explained that we are human ‘beings’ rather than human ‘doings’. I remember scoffing some at the cliche and cheesy nature of that adage. But I really haven’t been able to fully shake it. I guess for a very good reason.   

Because I am fully swimming along in the school of hustle. So many of us were stepping into adulthood in the midst of #girlboss and #thegrind. I am all for women innovating with their work and shattering glass ceilings. But I wonder sometimes if the programming we were handed firmly plants us on a treadmill that won’t stop rather than a lush trail complete with overlooks and park benches. 

Statistics are saying more women than ever are experiencing burnout and are stepping away from careers that they fought tooth and nail for prior to the COVID pandemic. I am sure many of us would not have needed a crystal ball to predict that the increased demands that came from working-from-home and homeschooling would primarily land upon the shoulders of women. It says quite a lot that teachers and nurses are leaving their jobs in hoards. 

So where does that land us? I go back to Mark  6. At first, it seems rude and dismissive that Jesus doesn’t say a darn thing in response to the disciples rattling off their accomplishments. Instead, he says two things: get away and rest a while.

What Jesus shows here is a far greater interest and passion for the condition of his disciples’ souls than any interest in their work histories.

Recently, I have started to try my hand at gardening. I don’t know if it’s something about crossing the threshold into my thirties, but I have found myself seriously wanting to don a hat that looks remarkably like my Grandma Jean’s and purchasing gardening books. But here’s the thing: I haven’t really put in much of the time at investing in a good sun hat or actually leafing through and reading those helpful gardening books. Instead, I have attempted to approach gardening like I have with most other activities in my life: power-walking through my neighborhood garden center, frantically pulling weeds, and haphazardly shoving plants and flowers into the earth.

Some of what I have purchased and pressed into the soil has survived.

But earlier this summer, I attempted to plant these luscious, blushing pink hydrangeas. I knew exactly where I wanted them. In the middle of my son’s nap time one afternoon, I carved out fifteen minutes for digging, shoving, and yelling (at my new puppy to not take away my happiness with his overeager digging paws and acidic urine).

Later that day from my kitchen window, I admired my work. I imagined the width and height the hydrangeas would one day have as our years in our home would pass. And I thought, look at me go.

Yet as the weeks passed, I started to notice that the leaves were beginning to shrivel, the flowers beginning to lose their radiant hue, and the color of the stalks twisting from a verdant green and finally to a dull, horrifying brown.

Finally this week, I found a pocket of time to weed my garden bed. After weeks of hoping that all these foreboding signs were just a natural part of the process for a hydrangea in its first year, I acknowledged the writing on the wall. Begrudgingly, I pulled up on the plant, and with shockingly little effort, it came up free from the earth. I had not dug down deep enough for the plant to have a chance at taking root in the soil.

I think this happens to so many of us. We have a lot to do, yes. But if we are moving and working from a place of hurry and hustle, is anything that we are doing actually taking root?

I have also found that so much of this is intricately connected to our healing journeys too. Healing is work. So many of us want to believe that we are so far from where we were when our wounds were fresh and our lives shattered. In so many ways, friends, they are. But we can’t hustle our way to wholeness. We can listen to all the podcasts, read all the books, repeat all the mantras, but what we actually might need at times is not checking off another item on the to-do list or slaying the next fitness challenge. It might actually be taking a nap.

Why do we rest? Not because the work doesn’t matter. It does. We have a lot of work to do. But what are we actually building or cultivating if all of our hustle simply amounts to us spinning our wheels desperately in the mud?

And more than the work, friends, is the profound truth that our souls matter. Our bodies matter. Our hearts matter. The healing will take the most root and lead to the sweetest blossoms when we can begin to take those instructions from Jesus in Luke 6: get away and get a nap.

Practical Applications:

Take a nap! Or read a book. Maybe watch a movie. Meet a friend for a walk (you don’t even have to turn on a workout for your Apple Watch. Find an activity that brings your soul rest. You might have to brainstorm activities or non-activities to really zero in on something that is truly restful and life-giving.

Go! The first part of Jesus’ instructions actually direct the disciples to go somewhere else. Find a way to leave your home. Why? If you’re anything like me, you will have a tendency to get distracted by the dishes that could be done, the laundry that should be folded, the closet that needs to be purged– the list goes ON and ON. It doesn’t have to be Tulum (if you can swing that, GREAT- GO to Tulum!). It can be a coffee shop that is your FAVORITE; it can be the Metroparks. It could be just one overnight. Go somewhere that is beautiful and restful and not your home.

Recommendations: Leave the phone or put it on Do Not Disturb. We live in a culture where we might use a hashtag regarding R&R, but we really don’t know how to unplug and rest.


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