Now when Jesus heard [that John the Baptizer had been beheaded], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. - Matthew 14:13 (NRSV)
It seems like at least once a week, another friend tells me they’re swearing off social media. One can’t take all the negativity dragging him down any more. Another traces a bright line from the bad news filling her feed to a decline in her mental health. She’s drowning, she says.
Others have told me about the strict limits they’ve placed on their consumption of news media, for similar reasons. You can learn all the news you truly need to know in a half hour, but they were reading for hour after anxiety-heightened hour. They’d told themselves they were staying informed; what they were really doing was staying weighed down, demoralized.
I daresay Jesus understands.
He gets the news of the murder of John the Baptist, and he retreats. He doesn’t listen to the pundits opine. He doesn’t read the think pieces, or re-watch the shaky phone video, or read the (unverifiable) first-person account everyone’s posting. He just...goes away. To breathe, weep, rend, gnash, beat. Process, integrate, take on board, re-regulate.
Of course the people follow and badger him into a quick sermon, meal, and miracle, but he eventually gets his retreat. Climbs the mountain, silences the notifications, fights off the impulse to just check his device one more time real quick. Sits a while with his head between his knees. Doesn’t let the news close over his head.
And then when he comes back to the people, he comes walking on water.
Look, I don’t need my news breaks to be quite as fruitful as that one of Jesus’. Just help me keep my head above water and stay buoyant enough to help. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.