It’s graduation time! Congratulations to all the graduates, as well as all the parents, grandparents and teachers who helped them achieve this important accomplishment.
I can hardly believe it, but I just celebrated the 40th anniversary of my college graduation from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Where have the years gone? It seems like just yesterday that I donned my student nurse uniform for the first time and proudly marched up the hill for the start of my nursing classes!
“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.”
Matthew 11:28-30 – NIV
Like most college coeds, I trotted around campus with a backpack slung over my shoulder. Mine was dark green with two heavy duty brown straps. The front pocket housed a collection of pens, pencils,erasers and highlighters. The back pocket held my required textbooks and corresponding spiral ring notebooks.
Never able to study in my dorm room, I made a daily trek to the campus library to secure my favorite study spot. Every afternoon, I crammed my textbooks and notebooks in my backpack, slung that heavy load over my right shoulder, and headed up the hill. Although the backpack had two durable straps designed for carrying a load, I only used one. After all, that’s what all the cool college girls did. It wasn’t a problem for the first two years, but that all changed when nursing school began.
I recall the buzz of excitement tingling through me as I entered the campus bookstore on the first day of my junior year. It was time for me to purchase my official nursing student supplies. On the list was a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff, the JMU Nursing uniform patch, my gold uniform student nurse pinafore, and of course, the required textbooks. It was so exciting to see all the items stored on the bookstore shelves, but my enthusiasm waned a bit when I lifted the “Basic Nursing” textbook off the shelf and let it fall open in my hands. An array of glossy white 8 ½ x 11 pages greeted me, showcasing photos, illustrations and 12 point font. All to be expected, but the size of the book, well, it was humongous! There was well over 1000 pages hidden beneath that pleasant blue cover! I knew from the size of that book that my study sessions in the library would soon reach new heights!
The real problem came when I tried to cram that “Basic Nursing” book in my backpack. It absorbed almost all the space in the back pocket, and when I tried to sling the backpack over my right shoulder, it nearly knocked me off my feet. It became abundantly clear that I was not going to carry that load on one shoulder. at the risk of being uncool, I adjusted the second strap over my left shoulder, centered the load on my back, and set off for class.
that big book proved too great a burden to carry in my usual way. The weight had to be properly distributed between my shoulders. I had to be properly yoked to carry that heavy load.
The memory of that overstuffed backpack brings the words of Matthew 11:28-30 to mind. “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” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).
It occurs to me that you and I spend a lot of time trying to carry our heavy loads alone. We toss our overstuffed backpacks over one shoulder and try to carry the load unbalanced and unassisted. We seek to control every aspect of our lives and find ourselves surprised when things go awry. There are problems too big for us to solve, circumstances beyond our control. Lifting that load is simply too heavy. It can knock us off our feet.
“Come to me,” Jesus calls. What does He promise? Rest…Jesus is offering us rest. For that young nursing student, rest would have been defined as sleeping until noon. For this much older and wiser Anita, rest means something different. It means freedom from worry, freedom from fear. Rest is less about sleep, and more about trusting in God’s faithful provision and protection. Rest is about finding peace despite the heavy burdens of this life.
Jesus offers a different way to deal with our heartaches and hardships. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV).Jesus uses a farm analogy to extend a gracious offer. ”Take my yoke upon you…” (Matthew 11:29 NIV). When an ox is properly yoked to a plow, the load is balanced. With the weight evenly distributed, the ox can easily handle a heavy load.
We don’t have to carry our heavy burdens all alone. ”Take my yoke upon you…” (Matthew 11:29 NIV). We can quit trying to haul the weight of our worries on one sagging shoulder. Jesus asks us to adjust the second strap and place it over the other shoulder. Balance the weight. Connect with Him. Follow His lead and find the burdens easier to bear. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30 NIV).
Taking on the yoke Jesus offers connects us to Him and relieves us of the burden of trudging on alone. The problems still exist, but we don’t have to face them solo. Jesus stands ready to receive us and lighten our load.
Perhaps it’s time to adopt a double-strapped approach to life. Go ahead. Adjust the straps of that heavy backpack you are carrying. Place one strap, and then the other. Reach out and clasp the waiting hand of Jesus. Reach out and receive His rest.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 – NIV
O Lord Jesus, we long for rest. We are so tired and weary. This life is weighing us down. O Lord, we need Your rest. We need Your peace. Help us to accept Your yoke, binding ourselves to You, basking in the light of Your grace and goodness. For You will keep in perfect peace all those who keep their eyes and hearts focused on You.
In the Steadfast Name of Jesus, we pray,