gather - to come together: assemble; to bring together and take in from scattered places or sources*
The word gather is popping up in storefront windows and in displays at the end of store aisles. I gathered with family this past week for a wedding and it was delightful! It is the time of year to gather. We gather with loved ones to give thanks. We gather leaves, apples, pumpkins and the fruit of our harvest. It’s also the time to gather ourselves. As the sun sets earlier and the days shorten, it wakes us up to the significance of the minutes we do have and the need to make the most of them. It’s not easy to make the most of our time and energy. I often feel more scattered than gathered. Life seems to scatter us both externally as we run here and there to activities and internally as we try to manage all life demands.
There are a few verses at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark that always cut through to my heart and beckon me to gather myself. It reads:
“That evening, after the sun was down, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city gathered around his door… In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and prayed. Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” Jesus answered, let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also for that is what I came out to do.” **
I think this is what it means to live a gathered life. It is marked by a rhythm of retreat and reengage. We step away to a quiet place to gather ourselves and pray. Ronald Rolheiser describes prayer as relaxing into God’s goodness. When we gather ourselves in God’s presence we find rest, clarity, and renewal. We let him define our agenda and then we return to what lies before us.
We need to gather ourselves. We need clarity on what we need to do. People will be searching for us, wanting our help, our time, and our allegiance to their agenda. There are often very good things that need to be done. We need to learn and remember and grow into who we are to be and what we are meant to do.
Dallas Willard is a teacher I look to for wisdom. He was once asked to describe Jesus in one word. After thinking about it he said, relaxed. He also said, “What our life amounts to, at least for those who reach full age, is largely, if not entirely, a matter of what we become within.”
It’s not our job, our ideology, our doctrine, our successes or our failures — it’s who we become that matters. Am I becoming more…
Am quick to listen and slow to speak? Am I becoming more myself — the self I was made to be, doing the work that I am meant to do?
The leaves are starting to fall and scatter, blanketing the ground below. It’s always a dramatic transformation to see them plied up together and then removed. And when they are, something amazing happens. Sometimes I wonder, if we watch very closely, if we could actually see the green grass perk back to life and breathe again. Maybe the same can be true of our souls. Let’s take time to gather ourselves, considering all that is scattered around and within us. Let’s take time to be still and relax in God’s goodness so we can breathe in new life and return to the demands of our day, knowing what matters and what we need to do.
* definition from Oxford Languages on Goggle
** See Mark 1: 32-38