“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28)
I am feeling tired all the time. Every day is Groundhog Day. I am very limited in how I can see people. The cold weather has taken away the flexibility to see them outside. In December, I tore my achilles and now I can’t even walk with people. The decision to go anywhere is deliberative, requiring caution and awareness of possible dangers, which are often the people I love most and who most give me life. Every day is an effort.
I bet much of that sentiment is true for you, although I am sure the circumstances vary wildly. But the duration and the omnipresence of the virus, the uncertainty of how we get it and whom we need to avoid, the changes in work and community, in the rhythm of life – all of that makes me “weary and burdened.”
When we studied that passage recently with our staff, I was drawn in. My reaction to that first sentence was visceral; I felt it in my gut. I even wanted to tear up a little (but that would be awkward on a Zoom call! 😊) Do you feel it too? Does it just feel interminable?
I/we are perfect candidates for Jesus’ invitation. He names our situation and says, “I can help.” So what’s the plan? What’s the antidote? How do I feel relief? Give me the vaccine to weariness. After all, Jesus is kind of making a promise.
So, the antidote to weariness is, “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.”
Wait a minute! What is this “yoke” deal? Isn’t that a sort of halter that you put on animals when they are working in the field? The dictionary defines it as “a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.”
Two things stop me here. The first is that the antidote to weariness, the place to go to find rest, is in work. Now that sounds counterintuitive! Usually I would say that work is the cause of weariness. And yet that is not true of the weariness that I feel right now. The weight of this season, ironically, is how it has prevented us from so many of the things that we do that bring meaning. We do “work,” but it is disconnected from people or virtual (which can be more draining than face-to-face). But Jesus suggests that it is in constructive contribution, not escape from service, where we will find rest. Engagement, rather than disengagement, will bring renewal.
But He does qualify that yoke. First of all, it is His. That might mean that He owns it. I tend to think that means the two of us are yoked together in whatever work this is. We pull the plow. We work the field together. “Take my yoke and learn from me.” So, as we pull, I get to learn from Him. How do we do this thing? How do we accomplish this work? My teacher is not in a book or at the front of the classroom. He is in the work with me.
And as we do this together, as we work, as I experience his gentleness and humility of heart, somehow that burden becomes light and the yoke feels easy. Somehow I am doing what I was built to do, with the one whom I was built to serve.
Now I am a long way from figuring this out. I want to vacation in order to find rest, rather than work. And yet, especially in this season, when I am already slower, less productive, and more isolated, leaning in to find His calling, His yoke does make sense. So now, if I can just figure that out.
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.
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