Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)
28-30 “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.”
These bible verses in ‘The Message’ translation by Eugene Peterson are often posted online as pretty fonts, with stock images of women walking, arms outstretched, through fields of wheat.
They resonate with people. The words are pretty and they speak of rest and restoration, which plenty of us need. But every time I read them I feel I am missing something. How do I get this rest you speak of? How do I get away with God and recover my life? These are pretty words but I want some more concrete examples- a ten-step plan to living freely and lightly. I seemed to have missed the Sunday School classes on how to be a well-rested Christian.
A couple of weeks ago our Children’s Pastor Dave Scaife gave a little message during an All-in Service that dropped fresh revelation into my soul. Dave referred to the NLT translation and he spent time explaining what it meant to be yoked to God.
Matthew 11:28-30 New Living Translation (NLT)
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
A first-century method of ploughing a field involved two oxen (bullocks) paired together to pull a plough. The oxen were yoked to one another so that they moved in sync as they worked the field. Dave explained that a young inexperienced ox was often paired up with an older more experienced one. The experienced one knew what pace to go and when to turn.
I’m sure I’ve heard this explanation plenty of times before, but when Dave said it, it was like I knew it for the first time.
I am like the young oxen!
I try to plough the field too fast and then I need to lie down when I should be working. My turning circle is all wrong. I veer outside my lane and I stop and stare off into the blue sky while the other ox waits patiently for me to re-engage with the task.
This year I have started to lean on and trust the more experienced ox. I am learning that the pace at which we are going to plough this current field is a slow, steady one. The experienced ox (God) knows that I’m tired. He’s alongside me saying, “okay, Vetty, we’re gonna plough this one nice and slow. We’re gonna walk and talk and hang out while we get this work done. Lean into me. We got this.”
Mostly, in life and especially in ministry, I try to go too fast.
Lately, I have slowed right down, but in the slowing, I sometimes feel anxious that I’m not living up to my full potential, that I’m letting God down by not being awesome and all that he has created me to be.
In practical terms, leaning into God and aligning myself with his pace and wisdom looks like prayer, reading my bible, carving out intentionally quiet space, listening to my incredible mentors, reading, journaling, reflecting, Sabbath-keeping, doing washing, keeping the house clean, watching TV with my husband and resisting the urge to pile more tasks onto my plate.
It also means trusting God that He has a plan for the gifts that he has given me. God knows my strengths better than I do. I’m pretty sure he has plans for me to plough some really excellent paddocks in the future.
But right now, we’re just plodding along in the sunshine.