“Uncle” Lawrence owned a farm, and when I was a boy, my brother and I would visit this magical place. It was the first time I’d seen how chickens were raised and eggs gathered and cows milked.
But what fascinated me most was when I saw the mule being yoked to a plow. The animal, use to this task, simply accepted the yoke and went about his work.
Life can feel like you are yoked to a plow sometimes. The daily routine, the expectations of others, the seemingly unending series of challenges life throws at us; all can pile on to us and overwhelm us. And what makes it even worse, if I’m going to be really honest with myself, I bring a lot of these burdens on myself because of shortsighted choices! That’s what really makes the burdens of life feel even heavier!
There are times when I simply square my shoulders (I really like that word picture!) and just push on ahead. There are times when the weight gets me down. And then there are times when I just drop the whole thing and throw up my hands in despair. By the way, only one of these three choices has a positive outcome!
But what if I told you there was a better way to deal with the burdens of life? What if you could trade your heavy burdens with Someone else, and His burdens are lighter than yours! What if it turned out that not having to make it up as you go along, but embracing the wisdom of Someone else actually lightened the burden of living? Interested?
In our Gospel lesson today the Lord Jesus makes just that offer to you and me.
Look at Matthew 11:27-30:
The Lord said to his disciples, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
So what makes the Lord’s burdens lighter than your burdens? What is it about the Lord’s yoke that’s “easy?”
First, knowing God puts life in perspective and allows you to release the mistakes of the past to forgiveness, and the worries of the future to the grace of God. If your past is no longer haunting you, and your future is no longer worrying you, well then, you’re free! And the path to this freedom comes in actively knowing Him Who is Life Himself!
Next, knowing Christ allows you to become like Him and He is “gentle and lowly in heart.” When you abandon your own expectations of yourself and others and take on Christ’s perspective on yourself and others, you learn the way of mercy and patience and love with all around you, even yourself. Jesus’ life is filled with the clear perspective of life as it really is without the heavy burdens of false expectations and unwarranted opinions of myself and those around me. This always leads to an honest vision of yourself and that leads you to true repentance, and repentance always leads to freedom!
Finally, the Lord’s “yoke” and burden are lighter than yours simply because the Lord’s yoke is to serve, not be served, is to love without expectation, is to simply BE and not the driving burdens of “getting ahead” or “making progress” or accumulating stuff merely for the purpose of feeling better about myself. Sounds easier than the rat race world of driving ambition and never ending (and unfulfilled) expectations. Letting go of the lie that “You gotta look out for #1” means you can trust that God will care for you as you care for others!
Today, are you exhausted by life? Is your burden too heavy for you to bear? Does life feel like you’re yoked to a plow and life is living you rather than you living life? The Faith once for all delivered to the saints offers you a trade. Today, accepting a purposeful life of faith in the wisdom and disciplines of the faith is much easier than the “go it alone” mentality of pride and unmerited arrogance. Jesus extends an invitation to you today, right now. He says “Here, take My yoke, it’s easy and my burden is light. Let your soul rest in Me.” If you’re willing, you can be Orthodox on Purpose!