Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Jesus, Matthew 11.28-30
For the past few months, I’ve been meditating daily with this invitation of Jesus’. It has become increasingly meaningful. I recommend reading it internally, slowly, and repeatedly. Not just because it has meant something to me, but because Jesus’ words are worth savoring.
What has stuck with me the most has been Jesus’ defining himself as "gentle and humble in heart” and that his “yoke (teaching/way of living) is easy” and his “burden is light.” It never ceases to be refreshing for me to know this about Christ. When my faith and/or religion make feel weary or burdened, I must be doing it wrong. It saddens me to know that the portrayal of Christianity that most of us are given is so burdensome. For one reason or another, much of the church has handed down a Christianity that is brutal and arrogant, rather than gentle and humble.
I could spend days, months, and years (and already have) trying to form and answer questions like: Why has Christianity strayed so far from the character of Christ? How did we get here? How do people read Jesus’ words and interpret ways to isolate and condemn others?
While those might be good questions to ask and sit with, I believe it’s more important to find and provide an alternative. Every criticism carries with it the responsibility to be the alternative we had hoped to see. Otherwise, we’re just Negative Nancy’s and Defeatist Darryl’s.
It seemed like my teens and early twenties were for pointing out inconsistencies and fallacies in others because I hadn’t really lived enough to invent any of my own (or at least an awareness of it). For the past decade or so, it’s been about trying to be what I had hoped others would’ve been. This, in and of itself, can bring about an amazing amount of weariness and burden. It’s also one of the many reasons Jesus brings what is actual Good News (the literally meaning of the word “Gospel”).
Jesus extended an invitation to all who are weary and burdened, especially to those who are so by their religion and religious leaders. It is freeing to know that true-Christianity doesn’t look burdensome, painful, or heavy. So, whatever might be burdening me in my faith should be looked at very carefully and critically.
Is it necessary? Are it’s roots found in fear? Is it simply a moral or behavioral argument or does it have to do with my ability to be in relationship with the Divine?
In order to accept Christ’s invitation extended to the weary and burdened, we need to have the courage to throw off the things to which we are truly yoked. To what are we bound? Another way to phrase this question might be: What things have we allowed to define us personally?
When we are yoked/united with Christ, we discover that when Jesus describes himself he is also describing us. For, if Jesus truly is "the image of the invisible God,” we need to pay attention because we are ourselves made in God’s own image! So, when Jesus says, “I am gentle and humble in heart and my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” we can realize that this is the revelation of who we truly are. In our hearts, we are humble and gentle!
We’ve somehow grown up to believe we are so many other things: angry, hurt, anxious, bossy, afraid, shy, or weak. Those are conditions we’ve developed. Many of them are innocent defense mechanisms which have formed an incasing around our hearts and true selves. They are not our true identity. We are gentle and humble in heart. Taking on the closeness of Christ in all and through all (like two yoked oxen plowing through a dried field), we discover this over and over again.
Today when you feel angry and inflated with yourself, simply remember, you are gentle and humble in heart, and there is One who will yoke with you to show you how to get through “this” as such.