Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day Twenty-Seven: Rest

The WORD of the Day:

"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." 
--Matthew 11:28-29

Let Me Give You a Lift:

There is an interesting dichotomy in the passage above. Jesus is telling his followers that if they take up His yolk, he will give them rest. How can that be? A yolk would have meant basically the same thing to Jesus' listeners as it means to us today: a heavy harness by which a beast of burden can be guided to pull a heavy load, such as a plow. So how is it that taking up Christ's yolk can actually result in rest for our souls?

Let me try and paint a picture for your.  Imaging that you're traveling by foot to a neighboring town.  You're carrying everything you own with you on your back. For some of us that is a LOT, but even a few possessions get heavy after a while.  Imagine you have been walking for days.  You're tired, hungry, thirsty, and weary from your heavy load. When will you finally reach the city?? 

Then you meet a man on the road.  He tells you that, in fact, you have been walking in the wrong direction.  He says 'I know the way, and I will show you.' He also tells you 'You don't have to carry all those things with you; the city has everything you need.'

Now consider this trip is a metaphor for your life. You are carrying all kinds of baggage with you--physical, mental, emotional, material, etc.--and everything is weighing you down.  You are trying to find happiness--joy, abundant life, satisfaction, purpose--but because you are trying to go it alone, you are going the wrong direction.  

Then Jesus finds you, and says simply: 'Leave it all behind and follow me.' All  you have to do is take his hand and let him lead you.  You know, Jesus says the phrase "follow me" over two dozen times in the New Testament. In today's verse, he said "Come to me," but the concept is the same. 

I think that Jesus refers to this decision to follow Him as a "yolk" for two reasons.  First, because in order for Him to lead us, we have to be willing to be led.  We have to take His hand and walk with him.  It sounds easy, and in some ways it is, but consider how hard it is for a small child to stay with a parent in a store when they are being distracted by shiny objects. That is what it is like for us at first; we see things in this life we are drawn to, and are tempted to let go of Jesus's hand and wander off.  The good news is, when we do, we can always come back

Second, following Jesus also requires a willingness to set down our baggage.  It means letting go of our past, and the worldly things that are getting in our way, and  moving forward with Him.  For some people, this is the hardest part.  Consider the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Jesus but loved His earthly possessions too much to part with them.  Mental and emotional baggage can be even harder to put down. But oh the sweet release when we finally let go of the weights and the hurts!

"Follow me" is a choice that requires action, an affirmative decision to course correct, and a willingness to be led.  In that way, following Jesus is an obligation; a yolk, if you will. But it allows us the freedom to let go of so much else, and to move toward a life that is infinitely better, both here and beyond.  How do I know? Because Jesus said:
seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,and all these things will be added to you.
Give it a Listen:

Today's song is by Josh Wilson, and it is called “Fall Apart.”  The song is about how sometimes we feel the closest to God when we are tested to our limits.  When everything is falling apart, and yet we make it through, that is when we understand the true extent of God's love and grace for us.  My favorite line: "How can I come to the end of me, and somehow still have all I need?"

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