Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pushing the Cart

yoke |yōk|noun
a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull

“For freedom Christ set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  -Galatians 5:1

“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.”  -Matthew 11:28-30

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."  -Matthew 11:28-30 [MSG]

“When he says, ‘Take my yoke up you,’ he does not mean a yoke which he would lay upon our shoulders. It is his own yoke he tells us to take, and to learn of him. It is the yoke he is himself carrying, the yoke his perfect Father had given him to carry. The will of the Father is the yoke he would have us take, and bear also with him. It is of this yoke that he says, It is easy, of this burden, It is light. He is not saying, ‘The yoke I lay upon you is easy, the burden light.’ What he says is, ‘The yoke I carry is easy, the burden on my shoulders is light.’”   -George MacDonald

As a little girl, I loved helping my mom push the shopping cart at the grocery store. I would slyly slip between her arms, barely able to see over the handle, and position myself in front of her as “captain” of the cart. It seemed like such a wondrous responsibility – navigating heavy machinery through aisle after aisle, careful to avoid displays precariously stacked at each turn. I always took this duty very seriously, and it made me feel proud and powerful and important. Not to mention how fun it was! And yet somehow it never dawned on me that all my shopping cart pushing success was due to my mother’s presence at the handle with me. She was the one pushing. She was the one avoiding the inevitable canned-food catastrophe my blind driving would have caused. She was the muscle propelling the all-too-heavy cart. I experienced all the joy and carefree responsibility because mom was at the wheel.

I imagine this is what Jesus meant when He offered us His yoke. Rather than offering an “easy for Jaime” yoke, and a “light for Jaime” burden (think the kid-sized carts at Trader Joes), He says, “This God-sized yoke is easy for Me to carry, and this burden is light on My shoulders. Carry it with Me (push the grown-up sized cart with me, Jaime).”

Sometimes I think I try to carry the God-sized yoke of Jesus on my shoulders by myself. I somehow feel it’s my duty to fulfill the will of God of my own volition and strength. I have to do it by myself. As if God requires this of me. And so I stumble and I falter until I’m crushed under the weight of what I cannot bear alone, leaving a trail of wreckage behind. What was meant to be light and easy becomes devastating and discouraging because I can’t do it. I’m a terrible failure who can’t please God. I’m a slave to my yoke of inadequacy.

Mine is the story of humanity throughout Scripture.

Attempt after feeble attempt to please God.

God gave Israel the Law to show them how to live. The Law taught Israel that, even with a step-by-step guide of how to live a godly life, they were incapable of doing it on their own. They collapsed under the yoke of the Law. It showed them their need, not just for an external God who demanded obedience, but an indwelling God who would demonstrate obedience. A God who would be in it with them.

Enter Jesus.

“Take my yoke upon you… Walk with me and work with me”

We are invited to partner with Christ in obedience. It’s there we find the pleasure of God – by faith extended to us, and by deeds bursting from within us. It’s there we find ease, not in the task, but in knowing on whose shoulder’s the weight of it rests. It’s there we find lightness and rest from the frenzy of all our wonderings. It’s there we slip between the arms of our Savior, and with Him, carry out the will of the Father.

I’m so grateful that God doesn’t condescend a Jaime-sized burden onto my shoulders, one that I can manage on my own. How insignificant it would be. Rather, He generously allows me to participate in the grand, God-sized work of Christ – a work far too large for my inadequate shoulders, but where I fit perfectly within the span of His. I can leave behind my stumbling and faltering, and stand with strength and joy-filled confidence as I enjoy being a child at work with her Father.

Okay Lord, let’s push this cart together.