Tuesday, March 19, 2013


1 a : a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together

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, New International Version

Thanks to chapter 11 of Matthew, I've been pondering what it means to be yoked for the last five days or so. When I read through the passage, I was using the lectio divina method of reading scripture, so I read it through several times and then tried to picture myself talking to Jesus about it.  In my mind's eye, I saw Jesus guide me into a room both welcoming and beautiful.  Once there, I settled in on a sofa with a blanket tucked around me.  When I thought about the word "yoke" I felt clearly that what this word meant for me was "write."  This might seem contradictory since I have been doing many things - none of them writing - over the course of the last three weeks.

It's not that I haven't thought about writing - I have.  But most of my ideas lately have been of the fiction variety.  And who has time, energy (and talent) enough to tackle that?  Not me.  So I've been mentally filing away the writing ideas and instead pouring my time and energy into planning for our next school year.  While that may seem a long way away, the knowledge that I will be homeschooling all three girls again next year has propelled me to move from dreaming about an idea to actively pursuing it.  Starting in August we will have our very own neighborhood tutorial offering science, literature/debate and possibly a math enrichment option.  Since January, I have been working steadily to find tutors, work out the timing and get everything arranged.  Sunday night I took the somewhat scary step of presenting the plan to other families via e-mail.  Nearly all of them want to join us on this adventure.  I am pleased, excited and a little terrified.

I've been dreaming of doing something like this since my first year of homeschooling, but I've also been waiting for the right time.  Last fall, I accepted a job at my church overseeing the elementary Sunday school classes and volunteers.  Just recently, I agreed to expand that role to the preschool classrooms as well.  I've been treading carefully through all of this, taking it one month at a time.  But I have prayed for guidance at each step and I've honestly found the work quite easy.  A few months into the job at St. B's, it occurred to me that it might help prepare me for starting a tutorial.  Many of the skills I use for that role, including communication, volunteer management, setting clear expectations and supporting the people in the classrooms, could help me set up a homeschool tutorial.

How does all of this relate to being yoked?  I see it as being about my yoke because there have been times in my life when I've strained against my yoke, pushing ahead and pulling God along behind me.  There have also been times when God has had to encourage me to take a step instead of staying rooted to the spot.  But these jobs have felt like a natural outflowing of who I am and what I do well.  While I wouldn't say I have exactly felt like I am working alongside God (I haven't felt enough closeness to him to describe it that way), I can say that when I look back I feel like I have been gently led to where I am standing - and there has been very little need for pushing or prodding.

The hardest part of being yoked isn't being asked to work - I am finding that if I wait for God to show me the jobs that are meant for me, they are rarely hard.  He knows my strengths much better than I know them myself.  All three of the current things that occupy my time and energy - homeschooling, coordinating at St. B's and setting up the tutorial - require skills and interests that I have (in abundance).  So doing them isn't the hard part.  The hard part is believing that I've made the right decisions and having confidence that I can do these things.  So I'm trying to remember that I don't have to do all of this on my own.  That's where it's helpful to see myself as yoked - I'm only doing part of the work.  The Message version of Matthew 11:28-30 says it this way,

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 
When I hear the word "yoked," I may worry about being asked to do things I can't do or being pulled along to a place I'm not ready to go.  But these words paint a different picture.  Live freely and lightly?  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace?  Yes, please.  And I can see this in my life.  The work I am doing feels unforced.  That makes me desire even more to walk with Jesus and watch how he goes about his work, in the hopes that I can do mine in a way that likewise blesses other people.


RBM said...

Lovely post. I am intrigued by your practice of lectio divina, as I have also recently started a new devotional practice too, praying the hours. When do you do your prayer? Have you found it fulfilling or overwhelming? (I remember you said you weren't sure about doing 40 days of centering prayer.) Where did you learn about lectio divina?

WordGirl said...

I was introduced to Lectio divina at my first silent retreat several years ago and then did it daily as a part of my spiritual direction group last year. (We did an Ignatian cycle for the year, focusing on scriptures that teach us how god loves us.)

Lectio divina tends to leave me fuller, except when I find myself working too hard. Entering gospel scenes through this method of prayer has been especially impactful.

I try to do it in the mornings (but had more success with that last week when the girls were sleeping in as they adjusted to the time change! I sometimes have to choose between a morning walk and prayer.)

RBM said...

Thanks for sharing!