Last week, I said goodbye to an old friend. We’ve been friends for nearly twenty years. It was hard to see him go.
On my fortieth birthday, my family pitched in and bought me what was then the largest recliner La-Z-Boy makes. It was called the “Grand Canyon.” It’s been a very good friend.
I’d often come home from a long, stressful day, lean back, kick out the footrest and, as tall as I am, I wouldn’t hang off the end. Over the years, I’ve taken some great naps, and did some good reading and good writing there. It has been a very restful place for me.
But the time had come to move on since Gem and I had made some changes in our furnishings and there just wasn’t a spot for my old friend anymore. So, we made a donation of it and there is now a monk at Prince of Peace Abbey who is enjoying it instead.
Now, If you’ve come to a training I’ve led in the last year or two, there’s a good chance you’ve heard me talk about a surprising way that Jesus invites us to rest in the midst of our stress. You’ll find it in a very familiar passage:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28).”
Nothing surprising yet. Jesus sees what is heavy and wearying in our lives. Jesus cares for us and invites us to come to Him. In and with Him, we will find rest. (A few phrases later, Jesus makes clear that he’s talking about rest for our souls).
The surprise comes when He offers his strategy for helping us find rest for our souls.
“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 (29).”
Take my yoke. There’s the surprise. Jesus offers us a yoke so that we’ll find rest. He doesn’t offer a recliner. These words might have sounded a bit surprising to the ears of his first hearers. A yoke was an implement of work. Hard work. So how is it that a yoke could be restful? I can think of at least three ways:
First, a yoke would have been the means by which two animals could pull a plow or a wagon. Jesus invites me into the yoke with Him. My life and my work feel heavy and tiring when I feel alone in it. Jesus is inviting me to companionship with him in the work. I am not alone in anything I’m doing.
Second, there was often an experienced animal and a young animal in a yoke together. The immature would learn from the mature. And the larger, experienced animal would be carrying more of the weight. Jesus has the heavy end of the yoke we share. For us, his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
Finally, Jesus says that the yoke is a place to learn from him. It’s a place of training. It’s a place of apprenticeship. Jesus knows how to live and work restfully. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus can teach us how to live our lives and do our work as restfully as He does.
While I’ll miss my old friend, I have a better place to rest than a comfy old chair. I have a Companion who is teaching me how to rest at the center of who I am. In Him, I’m finding rest for my soul.