Driving home from a wonderful trip visiting our daughter and son-in-law I felt tired. Understandably, considering we drove 1,200 miles straight through to get there and then happily painted and gardened and did projects and shopped and ate and laughed and hugged and cuddled and loved each other (I am so thankful to the Giver of all Good Things for the gift of my family). But, this was more than the pleasant tiredness that one feels after a joyful, busy time. This was an inner weariness, a life-sucked-out-of-you fatigue, a restlessness of discontent within my spirit. Searching with my God for an answer, these verses sprang to mind, “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.” (Matthew 11:28-30) I recalled a mental picture God had once given me of two oxen yoked together, plowing a field…one older, stronger, more experienced (the teacher) the other younger, just learning about the work it was assigned to do (the student). The teacher’s shoulders were muscular and broad, built to carry the heavy yoke. No weight was meant to be supported by the student; its part in bearing the yoke was to keep pace with the teacher and thus learn from the wisdom of the elder.
Now, imagine this younger oxen chafing at that yoke, thinking it knows better than the other about how to do this thing called plowing. It tries to run ahead to a different pasture (the grass is always greener), tries to move sideways into another part of the field to speed up the process (focused plodding can seem excruciatingly slow), tries to walk backwards to fix a furrow (nothing is ever done well enough), or just tries to sit down because it is tired of working (it deserves a break today). Pain and discomfort are the result as muscles and joints strain against the bond with its teacher; the yoke which-was-never-meant-to-be-carried jarring, pushing and pulling its shoulders, neck and head.
You can probably guess where this is going. I was the younger oxen, and something within me was out of sync with the rhythmic step of my Teacher. My spirit was being rubbed and irritated by a tension in my mind and heart pulling against the forward movement of the Prince of Peace. What was this not-meant-for-me burden I was trying to carry? What did I need to give the Wise One to shoulder, so I could experience His rest?
Understanding dawned as I saw myself trying to walk backwards to fix an already plowed furrow. That furrow was in the finished field of parenting my young children. So much I regretted about the job I had done; so much I wish I could change….little children dragged through the muddy earth of a mom suffering from overwhelming memories and fears. Creating a healthy environment in which they could grow and develop was a daunting, challenging struggle, one I frequently lost. Tears, emotional instability, anxiety and depression were often the order of the day, and although I did my best to overcome there was still fallout in the lives of my children from my dysfunction. Try as I might, I cannot go back and straighten the crooked rows; I cannot till the clotted soil or remove the offending rocks. I can only trust the master Gardener to nourish, water and Son warm that which has already been done, so wondrous fruit can grow out of imperfect ground.
How to stop trying to carry the burden of self-inflicted condemnation which my Jesus bore for me when He was yoked to the cross? How to stop trying to break up the dirt clumps of remorse over immutable actions and attitudes? Forgiveness. Give forgiveness to myself for the unintended consequences of living a life shaped by human behavior beyond my control. Acceptance. Accept the past with hope, for “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28) and know that He makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Trust. Trust the One who cares for us more than we could ever ask or imagine, the One who loves my kids more than I do and the One who understands all that transpired and all that affected them in their growing up years. Be thankful. Be thankful for the good times (and there were good times), for my husband, our rock in the midst of chaos, for those who supported us and for the God who walked with us through it all. Be thankful for the good work He has already done in bringing healing to our family and maturing precious children into delightful young women. Be thankful that this loving God will continue to walk with us and that He will carry His good work “on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) And, walk forward. Walk forward with the Giver of Life who’s yoke is easy and who’s burden is light….and I will find rest for my soul.