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The Lord's Picnic
by Barbara Crafton

And he said to them, "Come by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile"...Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them..."

Sometimes you just can't get away. Everyone knows the odd combination of longing and dread with which overworked people anticipate their work holidays—longing to be at leisure for a week or two, dread at the pile of work that will await them when they return. It's not worth it to take a vacation, more than one person has told me. I'd be better off not going away at all.

There is more to it than the dread of the accumulated work though. A perverse momentum takes hold in some of us when we are in need of rest: we can't stop working. We don't take it easy—we take it hard. It's as if we were afraid to leave the very thing from which we need a break.

Most exhausted people I talk to go to work earlier than they need to and stay later. Work much more, and accomplish about the same as they would have if they worked normal hours. Maybe less. Their world shrinks to the workplace and the workplace alone. No other arena of their lives command their attention.

Sometimes they think other people would be critical of them if they took it easy, as if there were some moral high ground of martyrdom demanded of them that is not expected of everyone else. Sometimes they think terrible things will happen if they aren't there. They may hate it, but they can't bring themselves to stop.

The truth is, terrible things will happen whether you're there or not. The escalating hours of work, the inability to do anything else—these are symptoms of depression, a loss of self and perspective on the world so profound it can paralyze and even kill if it is not stopped.

Jesus and his followers needed a break. But the people they served wouldn't let them take one—they followed them on their vacation, every worker's nightmare. Not much could be done about the presence of all those people, but one thing could be done: Jesus could turn it into a party. His people needed some rest and recreation and the crowd needed supper, and so the evening ended in a picnic on the green grass.

Tuesday night was like that at St. Clement's: the tiny Spanish Mass was celebrated at 6pm, and then we had supper together. Sometimes it was Mexican food from one of the restaurants nearby. Sometimes Clarence or Seth cooked something. Sometimes we sent out for pizza. The kids from the After School stayed, and a few parents, and a couple of the counselors. Any volunteers who were around stayed, and somebody would often happen in from the street, in varying degrees of presentability.

The faces of the children and the adults grew lovelier as I began to unwind. I found my love for them again. The food tasted good, and it was easy to bless and applaud the cook.

The week had just begun. None of us were going anywhere anytime soon. We were stuck there. There was nothing any of us could do about that. But tonight we could relax and have a little indoor picnic. A sweet break before picking up the load again.

Can't get away big? Then get away small. Have a picnic. wherever you are. The Lord will provide.

Copyright ©2003 Barbara Crafton

From The Almost-Daily eMo from the Geranium Farm, e-mail messages sent by Episcopal priest and writer Barbara Crafton. Crafton's eMo's are published in book form by Church Publishing. Visit her Web site www.geraniumfarm.org

More by Barbara Crafton


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