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Monday, August 20, 2012

A yoke of another kind

We have a lot of ways to describe "worn out".  We can think of something as so worn it is beyond repair - so it becomes something we'd be better off discarding.  It can also mean we have so depleted our energies with the pursuit of something that we just cannot seem to find enough rest.  When this happens, we describe ourselves as exhausted or no longer enthusiastic to take on the task at hand any longer.  When we reach this point of waning enthusiasm and fatigue beyond our capacity to recover from - we need to do just what Jesus instructed - get away with him!  The promise - we will recover our life!

"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 The Message)

Now, I know this is a call to salvation, but hear me out.  We often get ourselves to the point of needing "real rest", but just never take the time or exert the effort to get ourselves to the point of "rest".  Instead, we kind of "catch 40 winks" and hope all will be well.  I call these "mini-infusions" of God's grace and then we think our tanks are full again.  Sadly, we wear out, running on nothing more than fumes.

If you read this passage closely, Jesus couples "real rest" with two things which seem like "expending effort" rather than idleness or repose.  He says to "walk with him" and "work with him" will produce real rest.  Hmmmm....mull this one over for a moment.  Walking and working actually produce "real rest".  How can this be?  For starters, when we are fulfilling the purpose for which we were created, running the course set our for us, we find much more energy for the journey than when we are constantly trying to paddle upstream against the current!

The real rest comes in realizing the unforced rhythms of grace in our lives.  The most amazing part of grace is its unmerited dispensation in our lives.  We do NOTHING to earn it - we don't deserve it - but we are extended it freely.  It is a rhythmic thing according to Christ - almost as rhythmic as our own heartbeat.  If we were to begin to really "get into the rhythm" of grace, we might just find the things which had us so focused and intensely drained of all our energies begin to look a little foolish!  

Have you ever stopped to consider what a "rhythm" is?  In the most literal sense, it is any movement with repeated and patterned occurrence - just like your heartbeat.  What does the heartbeat produce?  A pulse, right?  You can "feel" the evidence of the rhythmic beating of your heart.  We can actually feel the rhythmic beating of God's heart - by the evidence of his grace in our lives!  

What does grace produce?  According to Jesus, it produces a life which is "fit" for us - perfectly created for each of us.  He says it is neither heavy or ill-fitting.  He is contrasting living outside of his "rhythmic grace" with that which produces a heaviness within us - just like the feelings of being burned out and worn beyond usefulness.  In the most literal sense, grace is really a pardon.  It is the release from the penalty which could easily be held against us for the many offenses of our lives.  It is the "unburdening" of our lives from the weight of living aimlessly - without purpose.

You know, an ox is just another farm animal until you actually place the yoke upon its neck.  At the point of placing the yoke, the ox begins to fulfill its purpose.  It knows to pull with all its strength.  It moves in rhythm with those yoked together in its efforts.  I wonder if this is maybe what Jesus was referring to - us fulfilling our purpose by bearing the "right" yoke!  In the yoke of his grace, we find a rhythm to be more than just another in a crowd - we find the rhythm to be on mission with him!

Just sayin...