A well-meaning advisor at my high school gifted me a coffee cup depicting one colorful woman amidst a jumbled crowd of outline people. She is holding up a sign that proclaims, “If it’s gonna be it’s up to me!” This message resonated with me. I was proud that my advisor had noticed my dedication to picking up the slack and worked even harder to prove my new life motto true.
In college and early adulthood I enjoyed the doors that opened because I was a dedicated, hard-working perfectionist. But as my life responsibilities increased I didn’t always have enough time and energy to pick up all the slack. The burden I carried started to feel heavy. But I was afraid to find out what would happen if I failed to do it all. (I was once asked in a job interview which was more important: turning in perfect work or meeting a deadline. I was shocked at having to choose. To this day I have no idea if I answered correctly, even though I got the job!) My passion started to wane as my stress climbed, but I kept pressing on. After all, it was up to me to make things happen.
One day a friend directed me to Jesus’ offer of far more life:
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)
I was familiar with this passage. It’s likening our life with Jesus to a pair of oxen, joined by a wooden yoke that keeps them close together and working as a single unit.
My friend asked me to describe the yoke I thought God was asking me to wear. I pictured a bulky device that was heavy and uncomfortable. She said she used to think of her yoke like that, too. But now she imagines it being as light as a silk scarf. Those ideas were so far apart that one of us had to be very wrong!
It turns out there are different styles of yokes used for different tasks. But a proper fit is critical; a yoke should never cause discomfort or be too heavy. It should help equally-matched oxen work at full potential without causing any harm. Some yokes allow more freedom of movement; others require the oxen to go exactly where the farmer commands.
God was not asking me to take on a yoke that would add to my load, rather He was offering to ease my load. He was offering far more life. As I wrestled with this new idea, it became clear that “If it’s gonna be it’s up to me!” was an ill-fitting yoke that was adding to my burden. Perhaps it was robbing me of far more life that Jesus offered. Was it really up to me?
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)
I had always felt responsibility pile up when I read this verse. I had to finish the jobs on God’s to do list; I was under a deadline and had a lot of work to do. But what if that wasn’t God’s meaning? What if, while there are definitely things that I need to do, ultimately if it’s gonna be it’s up to God? What if I have a role to play in the projects He orchestrates, but HE’S going to make sure it gets done? And what if He knows my limits and ensures that my assigned tasks are not too much? That they strengthen me rather than break me? This new interpretation meant that God had custom-fitted yokes ready for me. He knew exactly what was needed and wanted to equip me to work at my full potential with Him. He was offering me far more life!
I have since realized that when I am stressed, irritable, or apathetic — or if I feel a certain heaviness in my chest — I am struggling under that old yoke again. At those times I need to follow the instructions in Matthew and go to Him, rest in Him. I need to ask, “What am I taking on that is not my burden to carry?” and then analyze my life to figure out which commitments or responsibilities (or even mental pressures) are weighing me down. When I release those and join God in the yoke He custom-designed for me, the work becomes rewarding again. I feel my passion return. And I experience far more life!
I promised that on this journey to far more life you would lose some baggage.
Have you, too, fallen for the lie “if it’s gonna be it’s up to me”?
Are you carrying too much?
Is your passion drowning under the weight of your yoke?
If so, go to God.
Rest in Him.
Lay down your ill-fitted yoke and join Him in the one He custom-fit to you.
Take a step away from a burdened life.
And a step toward far more life.
(Note: I gave away my mug a few years ago. I found this photo at an on-line auction site.)