A year ago this month, I was asked to give a training to teachers at church who taught kids from 4-11 years of age. I had never done that before, I wasn’t an expert on teaching kids (I still struggled with teaching my own), and I had a couple of weeks to prepare. It was an interesting challenge, because I didn’t want to revert to psychological tactics and behavioral science. Rather, I wanted to trust this particular scripture:
now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—…it had [a] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore … it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. (link)
“Try the virtue of the word of God“….better than force or anger or threats, better than manipulative psychology, better than social sciences, better than the study of behavior…in improving behavior? I had my work cut out for me.
But I discovered something.
As I prepared during the two weeks, I had to deal with one of my sons who, at the time, was rather stubborn when it came to doing his schoolwork. He would complain, and fuss, and resist. My wife had come close to giving up on him, frustrated in trying to teach someone who did not want anything to do with school-ish things.
As I thought about what to do with him, this scripture was impressed upon my mind:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (link)
This is Christ speaking to his disciples. Usually, we associate this scripture with burdens and trials and the struggles we face. We encourage each other to look to Christ and take upon ourselves his yoke, and then we’ll find rest to our souls.
Seeing with New Eyes
For me, a new meaning came…in the context of teaching someone, of helping someone who needed improving…and it dealt with the YOKE. Back in the day, the yoke was a piece of wood that tied two oxen together, attached to a load. It enabled the load to be shared, making it lighter for both oxen…compared to the weight one ox would carry on his own. That yoke went around the neck of each ox.
But this was the yoke of Christ. It wasn’t meant to be a yoke of Force…like the yoke of slavery. It wasn’t meant to be a yoke of restriction or restraint. The yoke of Christ couldn’t be about “making them do it”…no matter how good or beneficial that thing was that needed to be done. So how would Christ encourage someone to do something that they needed to do, even if they didn’t want to do it? How could the yoke of Christ be a yoke of Love?
And this image came to me:
What’s around his neck? It is my expression of love to my son…my hug. And that was it! My hug around him enabled me to be with him directly and do the work that needed to be done…with him. Just as Christ would be our yoke-partner in doing the needed work, I would be my son’s partner in helping him do the work he needed to do…especially when he felt that the work was too much for him. I would help lighten his load as long as he would do it with me.
I tried it…and it didn’t take long before the next opportune time he resisted doing his homework. Once he started to resist, I just put my arm around him and said, “Come on, son, let’s go do it together.” Eventually, because my arm was around him, he began to soften up. He became more willing to do the work, and I helped him and coached him along the way. Yeah, he’d fuss, but he’d get it done. I did it again the days after, and the results were the same. He didn’t resist me. He did his work.
Now, a year later, he hardly resists, but I still put my arms around him whenever he has a struggling moment and the temptation to resist comes up. What I’ve noticed about him now is that, out of the blue, he’ll put his arms around me just like that picture above. He’ll then talk about doing his work, and he’ll tackle it on his own. Sure, he’ll make a fuss for a bit, but it doesn’t last long. He’ll then get to work. Why? Because he knows that I’ll be by his side if he struggles, and then, we’ll do it together. Talk about the influence of the word of God upon the mind of a child!
The yoke of Christ is a yoke of love…and it is physically shown by an embrace, accompanied by your presence and willingness to be there to do whatever needs to be done…with them.
I’ve found that this method works with most anyone. It’s a relationship of love, respect, encouragement. It’s a safe haven to make mistakes and an atmosphere of productivity. It allows others to draw near to you because you are approachable, willing, accepting, welcoming, and have the ability to help them get done whatever needs to get done. It works because…you care. You care enough…about them…about the work…and about your relationship with each other.
But wait! There’s one thing more!
This experience taught me an important characteristic about Jesus Christ: he wants to be our partner, and he’d like for us to want Him to be our partner. It’s a two way thing. There’s a great work that needs to be done…it’s His work of trying to help all of us to come back to our Father in Heaven. He needs our help…mostly because people either don’t know God, don’t want to know God, or don’t know how to come closer to Him even if they do know God. And because people can’t see Him, they’ll see us instead. We’re the ones that need to represent Him, to show them how He loves them…through our embrace.
Thus, the yoke becomes our relationship, our willing partnership, with the Savior…and with others. We want that companionship.
Do we want to be Christ’s willing yoke-partner?
Shall we let him be our partner as well?
The Yoke of Christ is not to force people to come to Him. His Yoke is an invitation, a hug…His loving arm extended towards us, and when we are willing enough to come to his embrace, He pulls us nearer to him and whispers to us, “I love you. Let’s get to work. We’ll do this, together. “