The secret behind staying sensitive to God is the same today as it was twenty-one centuries ago. The mark of a maturing life is to be mentored by the Master. To follow Christ as He commands calls for intentionally shrinking the distance between ourselves and the Lord, who desires to lead us. How can this happen?
Tucked away in the middle of Matthew’s Gospel is a verse that reveals the real mission behind mentoring. It is among my favorite passages because it captures Jesus’ patent method of teaching through pictures. Moreover, it is such an “apparent contradiction” that one would expect to find red flags tagged to the margin of the scriptural page on which it is inscribed.
“Come to me all you are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. And you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29a).
Rest and the yoke of labor in the same breath? If I want rest, don’t I need to get away, shut out the cares of the world, and be nurtured? Not necessarily. While leisure time can be profitable, God had made it possible to be refreshed in the midst of the demands of life and ministry.
In the ancient Near East farmers yoked pairs of oxen together for maximum effectiveness. The older experienced animal knew how to work the plow, relate to the farmer, and finish the job. The younger soon learned the consequences of going too fast, too slow, or pulling against the plow. By spending time together, the characteristics of the older became the nature of the younger. In effect, the latter was transformed by the manner of the former. And because the yokes were custom-fit to each beast, the “burden” blended seamlessly with the natural build of the animal so that it could easily pass as rest.
Renewal can take place while we are fulfilling our God-entrusted roles by learning the lessons of our mentoring Master. The reproduction of Jesus on the canvas of our lives appears when the God-rescued soul becomes the God-directed life in a partnership that exceeds all expectations. When that happens, then we, like those early Christians, will find it impossible not to live, witness, and reproduce after His kind.