It was late in May when I traveled alone to a family gathering out West. I didn’t know my relatives very well, but I knew them enough to view the visit as a treat. They were always welcoming and effusive.

I had not been there long before something changed in our circumstances that revealed some tension I would not have seen otherwise. I felt suddenly estranged from my relatives, or from the family I had envisioned them to be. From a distance I watched them move on with their lives, the older ones behind a veneer of nonchalance, their adult children content with their bonfires, loud radios, beer, and gossip. How dissimilar we were!

Now I was glad for a chance to fade into the woodwork. With a spark on a short fuse, I looked wildly for escape. The people and the place I had longed to visit hemmed me in.

“Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon.”

I also felt a sharp, sudden, urgent hunger for Scripture. My Bible and journal were on my suitcase in the hallway. Hugging the books to my chest, I slipped outside and began to slog across the inundated pasture. It was still raining, but I decided that it should not be a hindrance. I continued to slog. The chimes under the pine tree by the house slowly tolled, and their notes hung in the air and faded as I slogged farther down the tire tracks, toward the pond.

“He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by himself.”

Bass crowded this pond. I could see them lipping the surface and hear their tails swishing as they dove back into the depths. I remembered catching one or two on long-ago visits—no fishing on this trip, though. Approaching the pine grove, I let the aloneness close in around me. The mud sucking at my boots contrasted against the silence of rain dimpling the surface of the water.

I glanced back across the pasture toward the house. The next meal might be ready, but I hoped they wouldn’t miss me for a while. There was someone I was missing.

The trees offered enough shelter for me to open my books, though raindrops spotted the paper. At least the trees sheltered me from the line of sight of the house. Here I could rest a moment from the activity and confusion. Now I only heard the voices of the frogs, who hid in the emerald pond grass and gloated in the rain, along with the sympathetic voices of mourning doves, and another voice from heaven. I was glad to hear His familiar voice in this place. I knew I was not the only one being crowded out.

“And Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from them.”

I missed His presence acutely, and now I knew why. I acutely felt the lack of Him in the house. After all, what room was there for Him? My relatives might have acknowledged Him, but their attitudes spoke louder. And He had been driven out by the noise, like me.

My Friend and Master’s presence didn’t fill up the pine grove with power and glory that morning. I knew of His power. Instead, He rested next to me on the wet wooden bench, and we watched the reflections of the trees rippling on the pond. He spoke to me about my feelings and the plans He had. It was hard not to listen to His voice in the silence.

“And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’”