I’d like to think that Jesus was an introvert, just like me.
Never mind that he had twelve men always at his side, and that he dealt with crowds on a regular basis. An introvert is someone who draws energy from being alone, and there are a number of occasions when Jesus withdraws to a quiet place.
My favorite is in Matthew chapter 14. John the Baptist has just been beheaded, and his disciples go to tell Jesus.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (v. 13-14)
Jesus needs some space, maybe to grieve, maybe to pray. He gets into a boat to find that “solitary” place, only to find that the crowds had followed him! He would have had every right to dismiss them then and there, or at the very least, get back into the boat and find another shore. He has a good reason! His beloved cousin has just been killed at the hands of Herod.
But he doesn’t. “He had compassion on them.” He stayed. He healed their sick. He fed thousands of them with five loaves of bread and two fish. After dinner, when they pick up the twelve basketfuls of leftovers, here’s what he does:
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone … (v. 22-23)
Finally Jesus is able to claim his alone time!
I’ve always been struck by the parallels in this story to my journey as a mother. Jesus’s needs are interrupted by his beloved and needy children. My needs are also interrupted by my beloved and needy children. Just yesterday, I headed out to the patio to enjoy my coffee and my book. I had just made myself comfortable when my four year old found me to ask for some milk. Then my six year old came outside to show me what he was sure was a sliver in his finger.
As parents, we are constantly putting our needs aside to tend to our children. It’s exhausting, and it can easily cause us to feel resentful. I am in awe of Jesus’ response: compassion. He set aside his own needs, his own timetable, and tended to his beloved children: he healed their boo-boos; he served them dinner. He waited until the table was cleared and everyone dismissed to look after his own needs.
I’m ashamed to admit that compassion is not always my go-to response. (My husband recently said to me: “You can’t be angry at the kids for waking up!”) I get irritated when my own agenda is interrupted, even when my kids have legitimate needs.
I believe that it’s healthy to set boundaries, that giving yourself a “time-out” is necessary, that making time for soul-filling activities is important. But how we respond when we are interrupted is crucial. A sigh, an eye roll, a harsh word: these are all knee-jerk reactions. Let’s pause for compassion. Let’s take a deep breath or two before we respond. I’m challenging you, and I’m especially challenging myself!
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