Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ake my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
Consider how subversive the idea that Jesus offers us an easy yoke. Certainly, this is the first time that such a thing is even suggested, even in the Bible. The Levitical laws don’t strike me as a burden that is light, after all. And religion is filled with duties and obligations that weigh heavy on us. Then came Jesus proclaiming that His yoke is easy. What does that even mean?
I awakened to a sense of urgency this morning. The holidays are over and I can no longer use them as an excuse to avoid those things to which I am called. The garlands have dried out and their brittle needles are dropping. I still have a bookcase down from the earthquake, its contents strewn across the floor. My downstairs looks like a madman went through the library, hurling books across the room. And I am wrestling with Eve and Genesis and God. I want to finish this book I’ve been writing in my head for ten years.
And I am tired of earthquakes. A 5.0 rolled underneath my home on New Year’s Eve and rolled back the next day with a 4.2. Every time I hear the dull roar echoing from the facing mountain, I know it will be just a moment before my sliding glass doors shudder. I have given up straightening out my pictures and have ordered Velcro tape. So when I sit down to have my daily time with the Lord, I am not feeling the whole easy yoke paradigm.
And yet there it is. The promise of ease that lingers just out of reach. But I have learned how to enter into the rest. And labor it is indeed for it requires me to surrender to peace and joy. I have to pry open my hands and heart to let go the burdens I insist on carrying as if they are actually mine. But the truth is that I am not even my own anymore, though I still have to battle that out each morning as I put my to-do list together.
I am avoiding the posts about making resolutions. If I allow myself to go down that route, I could come up with a thousand shoulds pounding on my doors and windows. Let us in! they cry. We can fix you. For isn’t that what a resolution is? A re-solution to a recurring problem? And problems? I got em.
But I haven’t turned fifty for nothing. I have left the all-knowing age of 38 behind for a humbling decade in my forties. None of my solutions fixed anything. My willpower… nada. My ingenuity and resourcefulness did not prevent our nomadic decade. The power of my prayers did not make anything disappear. I am still here and so are the burdens I carry for my children, my destiny, my husband, and the list goes on. But I do know how to shuffle them off onto the One who knows what to do with them.
So here it is. Here is how I learned to take up my cross and follow Jesus. Turns out my cross isn’t nearly as heavy as His. And it is designed just for me. I still suffer, but I am not crushed. I bob around in the big ocean of life buoyed by hope. And you better believe people notice. Anyway, here is how I got rid of the soul-crushing blight that life tries to pile onto our broken backs.
Give up the approval of others.
You have God’s approval. You belong to Him and He likes you. The approval of others is always just out of reach. Don’t believe me? Look at social media and the mean comments that follow every moral or personal stand. Public shaming is back with a vengeance and we count the likes on our posts as if they matter.
It feels like approval matters, but it doesn’t if you are brave enough to do what you really want to do, feel called to do. What does matter is if you are following God. He thinks you are great. The yoke of public opinion is too heavy for anyone to carry, even when it is positive. Jesus knew better than to set store by it and so should we.
Give up the control over outcomes.
Outcome-based thinking is all very well and good for the business world, but how much control can I have over others? The world worships outcomes and Christians do too. I have read at least fifty books on prayer. That is not an exaggeration. Many, though not all, were based on the notion that if you can pray right, you will get the outcome you want.
Now as a person who has had a lot of prayers answered, I am not saying that prayer doesn’t yield a harvest. But the real harvest of prayer is an easy yoke, a partnering with the will of God, and a peace that passes understanding. If I had to rely on whether my prayers achieved outcomes, then my faith would dim. My prayers are not about controlling events. They are about communing with the One who made everything and knows how it all works. I pray for presence, not presents.
Go slower, go lower.
I used to be able to accomplish a great deal in a small amount of time. It took me a while to realize that this was actually fueled by anxiety. If I could get stuff done, I had proved my worth. Now though, I am writing, an activity that often seems futile and at other times, too weighty. I wrote a chapter in my book, in a hurry to finish it. Then God slowed me down. I write a paragraph or so a day right now in it. Why? Because He is showing me everything I missed when I tried to just get it done. And I missed a
It isn’t a huge burden to write a couple of paragraphs here and there that I have had a chance to really mull over. It is a huge burden to write a book about the Bible. Presumptuous even. What am I thinking? Oh yeah. I am under the illusion that striving will give me anointing, a book deal, and a ministry. Time to look for His presence again.
Even this post was less of a burden than I thought it would be. I woke up and thought oh no! What am I going to write about? Then the Holy Spirit said Let’s go fix the bookshelf. You don’t have to worry about inspiration. That’s my job.
The bookshelf is fixed with my new handy dandy electric staple gun, my post came easily, and another earthquake just rolled over me. Life is good and terrible. But His life in me overcomes the worst, even natural disasters, a missing muse, and a chapter that needs another revision.