“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. – Mark 6:31

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” – Luke 5:16

One of my favorite things about Jesus is the way he withdrew to solitary places to pray and be alone with the Father. There is a tree close by our home in a place our family simply calls the “big field.” It’s an evergreen tree that is strong and tall and looks likes its best years are yet to come. On a clear night, you can stand there and see the heavens full of stars. On a warm sunny day, you can look out and feel like you are the only one around. In a neighborhood full of homes, it’s the most solitary place around.

2019 was a full year for our family. We had just moved to a new home and said goodbye to our old one. We had started and ended jobs. We had a close family member who almost did not make it after a stroke. We had our 3rd child on the way. It was a season full of life and we were grateful as well as a little upended with all the changes. At the time I was listening to an album called The Tree of Forgiveness by a folk songwriter named John Prine. His lyrics could paint a full picture of love, loss, and longing to be at peace with his creator. This album however sounded a lot different than his early work. It was marked with a sense of peace or perhaps finality. He sang about heaven and going home. With John Prine’s album fresh on my mind I decided to name my tree, the Tree of Forgiveness. I went back any time I got a chance looking for a quiet space to be with the Lord. By seeking out a physical place to be alone for a few moments, I was reminded that I’m not alone at all. Jesus seemed to know how critical it was for him to withdraw to quiet places. He used this space to understand his mission with clarity and freedom that comes from knowing that all is well in the peace and security of his Father.

Then came 2020. I saw in the news in April that John Prine had passed away from complications with Covid-19. All of a sudden his music, this final album, the tree all became a marker of how our world was changing and the uncertainty that came with it. Prine’s words took on new meaning. “Come on home, come on home, no you don’t have to be alone” (from the song Summer’s End).  These words came back to me over and over again as I thought perhaps, he had found rest in an understanding of God’s presence in the last years of his life. It is well, with my soul.

There are so many things in this life that threaten to take our peace away from us. Creating physical space to be alone with the Father allows us to recenter ourselves on his rest, especially when we walk through a season of change and uncertainty. As we desire to follow the example of Jesus, I challenge you to seek out a place of your own where you can be alone and ask the Lord to refocus your understanding of the struggles that lie before you in a place of quiet and solitude.

In this season of Lent, we approach the real Tree of Forgiveness, the cross. The place where Christ once and for all takes the weight of sin and death upon himself. Here the Lord quietly beckons each of us to come back to our true home, to true rest and freedom where we no longer are alone.

Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

Ryan Ellsworth

Ryan Ellsworth

Ryan is an architect and family man. He enjoys being in nature, travel, and spending time with a friend over a good cup of coffee. He lives with his wife Christine and their three kids, Arthur, Clara, and Molly. Ryan has served on Commonway’s Board of Elders since 2018.

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