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by Al Carden

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Feb. 28, 2016

Have you ever experienced a situation whereby you entertained a moment of inspiration and then perhaps shared it with a good friend? After you shared it, your friend gives you a look that communicates, "you just now coming to this?" I've seen this look before, I'm thinking, "so you've known this for how long and you haven't shared it with me?" I had one of those not long ago so I'm taking the chance of sharing it here in hopes that some of you will rejoice that I'm just now coming to this. But there may be those reading this reflection where maybe this will be your initial moment of inspiration. Either way as we reflect together it is amazing to me how one moment of inspiration can open up a reservoir of divine influence inviting us still deeper.

In Matthew chapter eleven Jesus issues an invitation for rest to all those who labor and are heavy-laden. The word used for labor seems to mean those who are growing weary by the moment under the stress and strain of one's circumstances. Then Jesus continues the invitation by offering his yoke.

My path into chaplaincy training took place at the Baptist Medical Center in Pensacola, Florida. I was blessed to interact with a number of fellow pilgrims seeking similar training. One of those fellow travelers was a Catholic Priest name Jerry. He had served as a missionary in Africa. One day we were discussing the passage in Matthew related to the yoke and particularly how easy it is. He looked at me and asked if I understood what that meant. You know how some of us are when we are asked such questions, "...oh sure, I know what that means"! Truth is I didn't know and perhaps he could sense that so he preceded to relay his experience from his missionary days. He told me that he had observed the Africans carving out a yoke in order to pair up two oxen for the purpose of plowing a field. He said that the yoke would fit over the oxen's shoulder blades. If the yoke did not fit well it would begin to rub a sore place on the blade and once that happened these animals would not pull at all. If the yoke was "easy" meant that it fit well and the animals would pull all day.

Now I'm not sure why it has taken me this long to figure this out but for as long as I have heard this invitation to "...take my yoke upon you" in my mind's eye I saw myself taking the yoke of Jesus and putting it on my shoulders. It never occurred to me that Jesus was already in his yoke and for me to take it upon myself meant that he accompanied the invitation. Duh! Once I got this then "learning of him" began to make sense. It's not my yoke! He doesn't need to learn of me. He already knows me better that I know myself. One of my African-American students added to my understanding the other day by informing me that often a more experienced animal is paired in the same yoke with one that is being trained. Once I visualized that I am yoked together within the yoke of Jesus Christ and this union is within me I fell into that reservoir I spoke of earlier.

The way we think is vitally important to the way we are! I want to encourage you to begin seeing yourself yoked with Jesus. No matter what your circumstances, visualize within yourself taking every step you take initiated by the one whose yoke you wear!