It's my first morning in Taiwan. My dad and I went to breakfast this morning and got some yummy Taiwanese bread and one of my favorite breakfast moves: the hot soy milk. It's like a sweet, hot milk. My sinuses are acting funny, sneezing a lot, it might be the air or from not sleeping. Either way, I hope I'm not getting sick. Lot's of tea, lot's of water. Lot's of tea, lot's of water. After breakfast, I decided to take a walk around the city, and ultimately landed at this tiny little coffee spot called Louisa Coffee. The coffee is really good! I'm here listening to Coldplay (rainy day anthems) and letting Galatians 5 encourage me. The time here with my dad has not been rainbows and butterflies, but I have been prepared and equipped to engage, love and support no matter what. I needed some introvert time to meet with the Lord, read, and experience the quiet and become recharged for the rest of the day. I am reading about the yoke of Jesus.
What does it mean to take on the Yoke of Jesus? In the book of Matthew, chapter 12, Jesus says "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." This is such an interesting command to me because a yoke still signifies slavery, something we have been freed from in Jesus. In Galatians 5, Paul even commands us to "not submit again to the yoke of slavery, for it is for freedoms sake Christ has set us free (paraphrased)." So then which is it? How is it that we take on someone's yoke and are fully free at the same time?
Trusting Jesus is the great exchange of yokes. It is the great surrender of all burdens, for one ultimate price: Your life. Trusting Jesus means that you give up all your rights to let Him govern your life, to let him direct, guide and take care of you. It's trading the need to know all the answers for the need to know the person, and it's giving up our perspective for eyes to see the bigger picture. The yoke of the world is a completely different yoke by nature than the yoke of Jesus. The yoke of the world ultimately leads to slavery because at it's core it is about ourselves. It's about protecting our own lives, accumulating more, and being the biggest thing we can be. The yoke of Jesus leads to freedom because at it's core it is about God, and it positions us to be used for a greater purpose. Any yoke that points inwards is not freeing. We are in bondage to our selfish desires.
The yoke of the world wears many guises. Here are some I can think of:
- The Yoke of Accumulation: We become enslaved to more. More possessions, more status, more praise. It's even more guised in the church. Who can seem the most perfect? Who can have it all together? Who can do more for God? The yoke of accumulation enslaves us to ourselves, disabling us from living generosity and giving freely our resources, time and love.
- The Yoke of Emotion: We become enslaved to what we feel. I know this thing first hand and I'd be first to raise my hand as someone who is tossed left and right by every emotion I feel. And though emotions are important and give insight into what's going on, we must be careful to not let them dictate our path. Emotions are part of the truth, but not the full truth. The yoke of emotion disables us from being agents of change in situations that are uncomfortable and give us excuses to disengage situations that might desperately need the salt of heaven. I have been at fault in confusing my low emotional capacity for "discernment," judging people or situations on what I feel rather than what God may think.
- The Yoke of the Past: God doesn't put us in time out. It doesn't matter what you have done or where you've been. It's just not the truth. The most beautiful image of the Father's heart is depicted in the parable of the prodigal son, in which the father runs to the son while he is far away. In that culture, it was shameful for old men to run and to pick up their garments in that fashion, it signified weakness. There is a waterfall of grace through Jesus, that pours over your soul day and night. Before you fall, you are already loved and made whole. The Yoke of Past makes us walk in circles at the base of the mountain, making us falsely believe that we have to work our way back into God's good graces. We waste our time trying to polish a heart that is already made clean through the blood of Jesus. When we live under shame from our past mistakes, we dismiss the work of Jesus on the Cross and insult God's promise to us. We put limits on God's love and restrict his healing power to a work's-based game - a game which, as we already know, we will lose very time.
- The Yoke of Offense: When we live as the world does, everyone and everything begins to owe us something. When we live like this, every interaction and every venture becomes a self-centered grab for accolades, praise, love and attention. Then, because of their very nature, people and systems begin to fail us. Friends don't include us like we feel like we deserved to be included, church leaders turn out to actually have problems of their own, people use you, you feel like you don't get the thanks you deserve. You become offended in your core. You become bitter. Bitterness grows when we let the sun set on our anger. It begins as a small disconnect, shoved into darkness and isolation, left to grow mold and multiply. Then it manifests as a wounded heart with an open sore. And it's like a massive, throbbing blister - where even the slightest rub insights gripping pain. It is the same with an offended heart. Every little thing begins to offend. Every failed expectation is interpreted as a personal mission to hurt you. It's an illusion. The yoke of offense makes enemies out of the world. We stop listening and only hear the narrative we've written in our own wounded heart. We cannot change the world wearing the yoke of offense.
I could go on.
But, there is another way. The Yoke Of Jesus. I hear His invitation to us:
"Dear sons and daughters. You have been carrying the weight of your brokenness all your life. You have fabricated a world to live in all on your own. This world has your rules, your expectations, your opinions. And though it is all yours, you are enslaved to it all the same. You have not yet experienced a life that is beyond the reaches of yourself and you have not yet walked to places that you were not able to see with your earthly eye. You are a slave of the Earth and it's rules. You plant many seeds but don't see them grow because the shadow your self hides the seed from my light, that makes it grow. You are so tired and you don't know why. You have filled your life with many things, much noise, but when you lay down at night, the quiet reveals the emptiness of your soul. The purposelessness of all your labor. But I have a yoke. I have a way of life. I'm throwing a party. At this party, you are fully loved. My love fills you up so full that you don't have room to be offended anymore. You don't have time to be bitter anymore. You won't need to accumulate the status and praise of the world. There's so much laughter at this party, not at the expense of others, but laughing at the wildness of grace and unbelievable life available through surrender to my ways. There's a lot of dancing at the party because you have forgotten the pressure to be presentable to others. You've forgotten yourself. The party is going to be so loud and bright that people will crawl to it from the mud and the desert. And we will greet them at the door, undo their chains, and cloth them inside with a new identity. Together. The party only has one condition for entrance: Your whole life. Leave your expectations and limitations at the door. Leave your low self-esteem outside. Leave the dark patterns, and the ways you are trying to fill your life with meaningless noise. Leave the darkness. Leave your need for all the answers. Leave your self-centered ways. You won't have time for any of this. We will be too busy living. My yoke is so different than the one you brought with you. It's a moment-by-moment challenge to die to yourself, not preserve yourself. But in this death, you will find your true life, fulfillment, and rest for your souls. Sin and shame have lost their voice in your life. Though you will continue to fight many voices and temptations of many kinds, my voice is the only one that can truly move your heart. The music of the party will play over your victories, struggles, breakthroughs, and dark nights. There is a seat at the table with your name on it. Come in when you get tired of being in the cold. This yoke is open wide for you and all people who want to come under it, all who have come to the end of themselves."