I don’t know about y’all, but the past few months have been HEAVY. What with COVID-19, racial strife, political partisanship, an endless barrage of bad news, May Gray and June gloom, all capped off by a three-month-long quarantine, it’s a wonder we all didn’t stay in bed and call it a year way back in March.
Being the supernatural, Spirit-filled leaders that we are, however, I’m guessing y’all actually did the opposite. I know I did. Rather than pausing, I plowed through quarantine as productively as possible, tackling all of the projects I’d put off for years. I had a checklist I wrote out on my whiteboard every night, that looked a little something like this:
• Spend quality time with Jesus (at least 1 hr)
• Run 5-6 miles
• Walk Jack (our dog) 3x/day
• Write/edit a chapter of my book
• Go above and beyond for clients - BE EXCELLENT!
• Bake banana bread for neighbors
• Make dinner interesting - GET CREATIVE!
• Call mom and dad
• Couples devotional/prayer time with Josh (my husband)
• Marie Kondo the closet/garage/car
Needless to say, by mid-May I was exhausted by the pace I’d set for myself. Somewhere in the midst of all this productivity, I also managed to gain the “quarantine 15” (too much banana bread), suffered a failed IVF transfer (devastating), and flew home to be with my mom while my dad was in the ICU (no visitors allowed).
By early June, I snapped.
This breaking point was the catalyst that drove me to my knees, begging Jesus to restore me. I literally couldn’t get up and move forward without His intervention. As I cried out, asking Him to relieve me of the heaviness I couldn’t seem to escape, He reminded me of His words, recorded in the Book of Matthew:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
I’d read this passage so many times before, I knew it by heart. This time, however, the Holy Spirit prompted me to go a step further and google an image of a real, live yoke. Being more of a city girl than a country chick, I didn’t really know what a yoke looked like. I thought it was just a thing that farmers put on an ox to plow a field. But a yoke, I learned, is actually built for two oxen to plow a field together; two being the operative word.
This realization led to a whole new revelation. As an only child and newlywed who married late in life, doing things “together” had never been my M.O. Sharing a burden, or worse, letting someone else do the heavy lifting, felt rude, lazy, and irresponsible.
Fortunately, I had no energy to push back against what I felt was a direct commandment from the Lord. Whatever my misconceptions were, I was simply too tired to fight. Plus, I needed Him.
Lacking any specific direction on yoke-taking, I decided to take the Lord’s words literally. As outlined in the passage above, I first came to Him in brokenness and humility, and simply asked for His help. I unloaded all of my emotional baggage in prayer, and begged Him to take it away. Being in His presence made the heaviness dissipate, and restored a feeling of hope and expectation that He would do what He promised to do.
Next, I asked the Lord to help me trade my mythical single person yoke for His twin yoke. As I imagined myself putting it on, he showed me all of the weight I’d borne alone, most of which was never meant for my shoulders. “These are problems that only I have solutions to,” He said. “Stop trying to solve them alone.” To be clear, he didn’t ask me to step away from or ignore them; He simply told me to stop tackling them on my own, and let Him work through me instead.
After that, I asked him to help me keep His yoke on. Old habits die hard, and I didn’t want to resort to the very patterns that had weighed me down in the first place. Keeping His yoke on meant staying in lockstep with Him, every moment of every day. Getting ahead of him would mean bearing the weight again, while dragging my feet would cause me to slip out of His yoke entirely. Neither was a viable option, and I would need His help remembering that.
Finally, God helped me see that ignoring the problems of the world, or hiding out in a sanctuary, waiting for the Rapture, was not a viable option. Mind you, it’s still tempting to peace out. Some days, I really want to. But God has affirmed that I was created for such a time as this, and that I am meant to be a part of the dialogue and solution. So as tempting as it is to throw in the towel, God showed me that being yoked with Him means staying in the field and doing the work.
Today, I’m walking a lot lighter – not because I’ve shed much (or any) of the 15 lbs I gained on quarantine, but because I’m not doing the heavy lifting anymore. When I wake up, I make being in His presence a priority, so that I can take on His yoke and follow His lead. The work is hard at times, and I still get emotional about everything that’s happening in this world, but I’m not exhausted by it like I once was. I’ve chosen to be yoked to Jesus for eternity, which makes all of the difference on this side of it. And when I forget that’s true, my “gentle and humble” Lord is gracious to remind me.
Denise Gitsham Jones is a political junkie, recovering attorney, dog mom, and wife of a "real attorney." When she's not working in Washington, D.C., she's at home in Solana Beach, California, where she spends her free time training for triathlons and investing in her community and church.