Wednesday, December 9, 2015

No Beast of Burden, Reflections on an Empty Yoke

Burdens. We all have them. Heavy by definition. Awkward, uncomfortable, ill-timed, strength-sapping, discouraging sometimes. I keep thinking I can dodge mine by careful planning but it doesn't work. God isn't following my script. He keeps writing His own and I'm left with them. The burdens.

He says they are light and momentary.
My yoke is easy and my burden is light.--Matthew 11:10.
 It doesn't feel like it. Not today. Maybe not ever.

I know what God says. Walk beside Me. Let me help you.
But He doesn't get it.
I am not a beast of burden.
A yoke is made for animals. I am a human being. He made me that way. I walk upright. I think. I dream. I have dominion. He gave it to me. He put me in charge.
Why, then, do I feel so helpless?

It's the burdens that keep me there. The cares. The problems. The misunderstandings. The intentional hurts. My arms and back tire of them. My neck hurts. 
My neck. Where I'm supposed to wear the yoke. That darned yoke.

For a farmer, a yoke does two things. 
First, it provides an efficient way to get work done. It harnesses and employs the work of two strong beasts focused on one task simultaneously, sharing the load equally between them. 
Second, and maybe more important, it makes those beasts docile. Before being confined, they roam or butt or buck. Within the confines of the yoke, they know they are mastered. Once there, they calm down and settle into what the farmer wants them to do.

That's the problem. 
I want that calm but I don't want that confinement.

It's better, I think, to bear the whole load than to be mastered.
There's only one problem.
It's not working.
The burden is crushing me.
And I still don't want to let go.

My problem isn't a new one.
In the 12th century, Baldwin of Forde had something to say about it:
The Lord advised and instructed us to put ourselves under His yoke and His burden and thus, through obedience and patience, to become His docile creatures...

Agreed, but it still feels like defeat, like giving up, like copping out.
And I don't want to become docile.
I was made to lead, not be led. I am a person of intelligence and decision. He gave those to me. I'm supposed to use them.

If you're looking for a neat answer to this, you won't get it today.
I know the promise. Probably, so do you.
Again, from Baldwin:
Patience enables us to rise above tribulation and not be crushed beneath it. All who become gentle under the yoke and burden of Christ find that God is also gentle with them.

Why do I think myself so smart and capable when I'm still dragging and snorting, pushing the empty yoke around with a streaming snout, flanks worn, running and stinking with years of sweat? Why don't I just give it up and push my ragged head through the thing?
I don't know, but I do know one thing. I'm tired of this. It's got to change. 
And so I've determined my advent discipline this year.
To admit that God is God.
To let Him master me, tame me, rule me.
To figure out this yoke thing.
To give in, if that's what it takes.
To give up the burden and admit I can't do it any more.
To become gentle with Him and finally, finally, let Him be gentle with me.