“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
General George Patton is quoted as source of the phrase. But then, so is Vince Lombardi. Both were convinced of the truth of the saying, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” We don’t know that Jesus ever expressed the thought in those words, but he surely put that
message into practice. As sometimes happens in the lives of the followers of Jesus, the disciples found themselves caught in a vortex of emotions. They were buffeted by the alternating waves of heated excitement and mind-numbing shock. Wondrous victory had been followed by deadly retaliation.
Jesus had sent The Twelve on a preaching, teaching, healing mission. They returned to report success: demons were driven out; the sick were healed; and the call to repentance was accepted. They could report back: Mission Accomplished!
Then came the shocking news: afterwards, John the Baptist had been beheaded! Saint Matthew gives details: “His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.”
What were they to think? How were they to feel? What should they do now? They were not to quit. They were not to stand down. They were to “Take five!” “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
They climbed into a boat and headed off to a solitary place. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” There’s a reason why troops are rotated in and out of combat. The best trained, best equipped, and most experienced warriors will wear down under constant strain. That’s certainly true if their physical strength is worn down. It’s also true if the ongoing strain is mental. It’s probably twice as true if the strain is spiritual.
Body, mind, and spirit—all are connected. Any one of them can impact the others. But the spirit, the soul, is the core of our being.
The soul needs to be fed.
The soul needs to be protected.
And, at times, the soul needs to rest.
When Jesus called his disciples aside to take a break, it was to refresh their souls. When that happens, a mind might be refreshed, as well. And even a worn-out body can function better if its soul and mind have been revived. Denial of the need is counter-productive. It only postpones or prevents the renewal. We become less effective—more of a coward, farther away from healing.
The body needs to rest.
The mind needs to rest.
The soul needs to rest.
Food and sleep will help the body.
Peace and quiet will help the mind.
The spirit needs to be resupplied from heaven.
Only the Word and sacraments of the holy God can revive the soul.
There is no shame in admitting the need for a break. Our Commander already knows it. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He has seen our past. He observes our present. He knows our future. He knows all of our needs He sacrificed himself for us before we saw any need for rescue—even before we were born.
As he did with those first disciples, so he would tell us to not try to carry the load all by ourselves. He invites: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
The command to Take Five! contains his promise.
We join in the words of Christian soldiers before us:
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In every change he faithful will remain.
Be still my soul; your best, your heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul; your God will undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still my soul; the waves and wind still know
His voice who ruled them while he lived below. Amen.