Shared yokes

Daily Reading for July 7

If you have traveled around the world or even if you have read National Geographic from time to time, you know that there are two basic kinds of yokes that can be used to bear burdens: single ones and shared ones. The single ones are very efficient. By placing a yoke across the shoulders and fitting buckets hung from poles on each side, human beings can carry almost as much as donkeys. They will tire easily and have to sit down to rest, and their shoulders will ache all the time—their backs may even give out—but still it is possible to move great loads from one place to another using a single creature under a single yoke.

A shared yoke works quite differently. It requires twice as many creatures, for one thing, but if they are a well-matched pair they can work all day, because under a shared yoke one can rest a little while the other pulls. They can take turns bearing the brunt of the load; they can cover for each other without ever laying their burden down because their yoke is a shared one. They have company all day long and when the day is done both may be tired but neither is exhausted, because they are a team.

Plenty of us labor under the illusion that our yokes are single ones, that we have got to go it alone, that the only way to please God is to load ourselves down with heavy requirements—good deeds, pure thoughts, blameless lives, perfect obedience—all those rules we make and break and make and break, while all the time Jesus is standing right there in front of us, half of a shared yoke across his own shoulders, the other half wide open and waiting for us, a yoke that requires no more than that we step into it and become part of a team.

From “The Open Yoke” in The Seeds of Heaven: Sermons from the Episcopal Series of the Protestant Radio Hour by Barbara Brown Taylor (Forward Movement Publications, 1990).

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