read Matthew 11. I flew to Vegas last night for a media tour of a rare earth mine an hour away in the California desert. I’d never been to Vegas before. A friend warned me that the hotels pump Febreze into the air. It was even better than advertised. As it was almost Halloween, the air was laced with pumpkin and spice. In fact, everything in Vegas went according to expectation. The heels were high. The tops were low. The skirts were short. The tattoos were pervasive. What made me happiest was the wedding chapel. There it really was, right on the ground floor of my hotel, wedged between a McDonalds and the casino. I could have just walked in and tied the knot, right there and then. I found myself trolling the slot machines for a likely candidate among those attractive glassy-eyed eligible chain-smoking options.
Instead of getting married, I went to the O performance of Cirque du Soleil. It’s really strange. It has a carnival burlesque atmostphere. The only touches of romance occur between two tattered clowns; plastic flowers and a mushroom spring up on their ship after they’ve collapsed on a bed together, exhausted from hitting each other. At the very end of the show, a ghoul in a white robe plays the piano to a woman in a white wedding gown who sits on the lid, as they piano slowly sinks into the water, taking them both with it into a watery grave.
Despite the touches of anti-romance, the show was filled with passion. What remains in the imagination is the beauty of the acrobatic performances. I woke up with images of the people on swings, suspended high in the air, diving up, arms stretched wide, suspended in time, before plummeting into the pool beneath them. They entered the water without making even a splash. At one point in the show, when women and men were taking turns diving into the pool from three different swings, and red curtains were billowing behind them, and the music leapt from octave to octave; I thought, “these people have a gift. And gifts are rare.” I realized in the next breath that the same is true of love. True love is a gift. And true love is rare.
Perhaps one of the reasons people find dating so discouraging is that they expect to find true love around every corner. They expect the next one to be the one. But true love is a gift. True love is rare.
Underlying the words and actions of Jesus Christ, is a deep and abiding understanding of true love. To understand what Christ means in Matthew 11 when he says his yoke is easy and his burden is light, we have to try to understand what he knows about love. “You have left your first love,” Christ says of us in Revelations 2:4. His sorrow is the lament of the rejected lover. We begin to see that being in a relationship with Jesus is like choosing to get married.
So why do some men delight in referring to their wives as the ball and chain? They are referring to a reality. They are talking about a yoke. Like yoked oxen, they have discovered that they need to move forward, in the same direction, and at the same pace, as their spouse, or their fields will remain unplowed and barren. The yoke strains your flesh unless the two yoked beings move together.
So why, we wonder, do we have to be yoked to anything? Doesn’t Christ elsewhere promise that it is for freedom that he has set us free? And that he whom the Son has freed will be free indeed? So why does Christ here say his yoke is easy and his burden is light?
I think that part of the answer lies in the fact that we are relational beings. The moment God made Adam, he said, “it is not good for man to be alone.” So He made Eve. God himself is a relational being; he is in a dance of unity with the Spirit and the Son. We long for that kind of perfect union, just as something in our heart responds as we watch people in a dance on swings above a stage. There is true love to be had, and perhaps it’s not as elusive as we think. Perhaps God made us for a relationship with Him. St. Augustine claimed: ‘our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they find their rest in thee.”
The second reason Christ describes a relationship with Him as a yoke, is that we are worshipful beings. God made us not just for a relationship with Him, but He created us to worship him. If we choose not to do so, we will always worship something else. We will worship our children, our spouses, our fantasy spouses (like those glassy eyed slot machine addicts in my hotel), our careers, ambitions, hopes and dreams. We will do whatever those idols require of us in order to become one with them. But that kind of unity will always elude us. It will always disappoint.
The disappointment of the human soul feels like the worst thing possible, but it can be transformed into the best thing possible. When we come to the end of ourselves, we find God. When we leap from swings that disappoint, we find deeper pools. God is always there, waiting for us. The true love that Christ offers us contains both limits and infinity. God promises that if we learn from Him and walk in His ways, we will find rest for our souls. Just as those acrobats have discovered how to swing, soar, fly, dive, and disappear into the water by working with, not against the laws of gravity, so we too can learn to walk on water, by working with, not against, the laws of God. As God puts it in Psalm 19: “the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”
It’s a delight to walk with someone who loves you. It doesn’t feel like a yoke. It doesn’t feel like a ball and chain. All we have to do is be willing to say, along with Molly Bloom, yes, yes, yes, and seven times yes. All we need to realize is that we can lay down our heavy burdens, our true balls and chains, because Christ has already carried them on the cross. In the place of those burdens, Christ offers us freedom – the freedom of a marriage to someone who loves us exactly the way we are. Come to the true wedding chapel. Its door is always open. Wherever you are right now, it’s right there beside you, waiting for you to walk in.
posted by Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com