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30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.31 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. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties.41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied.43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

In this story, the disciples had a clear idea for how to use their time well, but Jesus taught them a lesson in compassion and generosity. You see, the disciples wanted to get away with Jesus, to retreat away from the crowds. This was an excellent idea. However, more crowds hurried ahead to meet them on the other side. Instead of getting frustrated, Jesus’ heart filled with compassion. He stopped and gave them more of his time and more of his teaching. It was growing dark and the disciples saw this as a sign to close out their full day of ministry. Finally, they could get the much-needed rest they were expecting. Except, Jesus instructs them to give up more of their time to serve a meal to the crowd of five thousand.

It’s easy to get ourselves in the same predicament. Our schedules fill up so quickly with many good things – work, family, church activities, volunteering, hobbies, friends. The list goes on. And, as life goes on, we can become desperate for alone time with Jesus. When we finally get this perspective, and rally the energy to schedule in time away, our plans can also get interrupted. And, usually it’s because of people. Family comes for an unexpected visit. Kids get sick. Needy people call for more attention. Neighbors need our help. You name it.

So, how do we respond when our plans are interrupted? When even the “most important” of plans – like getting alone with Jesus – are delayed? Do we see these moments as interruptions or opportunities? Jesus’ heart filled with compassion. He actually noticed the people around him and his love for others gave him capacity to be flexible when the plans changed. Although it was a different use of his time, the opportunity to demonstrate generosity was worth it to him.

If we want to have the same capacity with our time, we can’t get ourselves so worn out we’re desperate for a moment of time alone and irritable when we don’t get it. We need regular margin to be available for others. We need to be ready for Jesus to stop us in our tracks and ready to pay attention to those divine interruptions. On a scale of 1 (completely maxed-out) to 100 (completely bored), rate the percentage of your capacity to serve others with your time. What one change could you make to increase your capacity to be more generous with your time?

Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
    for he shares his bread with the poor.
Proverbs 22:9

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By Yvonne Biel  

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