“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” [Matthew 11:28-30]
Jesus’s invitation seems so timely now as we are all so weary of the restrictions that COVID-19 has imposed upon us, as we tire of the other dramatic illnesses and events in our families, as we long for relief from all this isolation. What He didn’t explain in this passage is that we have to first take off the yoke that the world burdens us with which is heavy and all-consuming in order to put on His yoke.
I am convinced that as we grow up we take on the culture’s preferences and ways, our family’s systems, and our peers’ ways of being, too. These constitute the yoke of the world, plus our own self-centeredness. This week I had an epiphany of sorts: That just because I am an ENFP on the Myers’ Briggs Type Indicator and a Six on the Enneagram of Personality doesn’t mean that these express my true nature, my created self. These show the adaptations I made to the world’s ways, not who I really am. And so, I have to throw off this part of the world’s yoke, too.
I was very surprised, because I so identify myself as these two personality tests described me. They were so helpful to me in understanding who I am. But, now I see, that I have to dig a whole lot deeper to see my own true self as God created me to be. As we give our lives over to God, layer by layer He reveals to us 1)what stands between us and God, between us and the truth about ourselves and 2)what He wants us to become and to do in this world. As we accept the truth about ourselves, as we put each highlighted issue into His hands for healing and transformation, then we can begin to feel the changes in how we look at ourselves and at other people and at God.
The world’s yoke is heavy and burdensome and covers over our own true nature. As God heals us of all that we don’t need to carry, we begin to take on His own yoke which will lead us to the truth which will set us free. [John 8:32] Free from what?
- Our self-centeredness
- Our indifference to others who are not like us
- Our need for more and more material things
- Our need to think like other Americans
- Our ignorance of our true nature
- Our attachment to the culture’s ways.
And what do we gain?
- The freedom to be just as God created us to be
- The true community of disciples of Christ
- A fulfilling purpose as we live out our lives here
- Peace and joy and a burden-free life regardless of our purpose
- The companionship of Christ at all times
- His help, direction, love and forgiveness at all times
- Rest and the promise of eternal life
The choice of yokes is up to each of us. Will I, will you, continue to chafe under the world’s yoke which does not really sit well on us or will we choose the yoke that Jesus offered us? Will I, will we, continue to wear the heaviest yoke or trade it in for the much lighter one? Mostly, we can’t imagine our lives without that heavy yoke, but I think that the Apostle Paul really did choose the lighter, freer one after his encounter with the Risen Christ: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am week, then I am strong” [2 Corinthians 12:9-10]. It is Christ’s power which will animate our lives and direct our energies. That is why His yoke is lighter than the world’s yoke.
There are many references to a yoke in the Old and New Testaments. Perhaps this one in Isaiah is most appropriate to our topic today:
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
Like a spring whose waters never fail” [Isaiah 58:9-11].
Questions to ponder over the week: Which yoke am I wearing? How would I remove the yoke of the world, of our culture of my own egocentricity? What is the first step? And the next? What is my goal, which yoke do I really want to bear?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who shed the burdens of this world and readily take on Christ’s yoke. May we turn away from the world’s cares and focus on what God cares about. May we be true to our beliefs and our faith in God.
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