“Take up my yoke upon you and learn of me. I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your soul.” Matthew 11:29
Yeah, no. There is no way I wanted to be gentle and humble after that phone call.
For the past several weeks I have been in charge of planning a family day at church. Delegating is not my strength. I’d rather do it myself and make sure it gets done, but I decided to make the effort and draw on some of the talents in our church. Lauren agreed to handle the decorating, Lisa, our best cook and all-around genius at hostessing organized all the food, and Rachel and Pat, two of our Sunday School teachers agreed to plan the games and activities for the kids.
10 days before the event, Rachel called to let me know she and Pat will not be putting any games together because they decided to go to the city to see a theater production the day of our event.
Excuse me? We have 75 kids coming in 10 days AND WE HAVE NOTHING FOR THEM TO DO?
I could barely hang up the phone because my hands were shaking so hard.
What! How could they? Don’t they realize what that means for the rest of us? How could they be so selfish? Angry thoughts swarmed through my brain like a bunch of frenzied hornets. Violence actually looked like a reasonable response at this point.
I stormed outside because the house was too small to contain my frustration. As I stood in the grass, one word broke through the seething mass of thoughts: No.
No, I will not let anger win.
No, I will not let the behavior of others steal my peace of mind.
No, I will not let anger open the door to bitterness, frustration, stress, or worry.
In the past my response to people who ignore their obligation, heedless of how it affects others, would be:
Gossip about them
Complain to everyone who will listen
Give them the cold shoulder
Be unavailable to help when they need it
Ummm. How’s that workin’ for ya? Not so good.
Anger is a reasonable reaction when someone else disrespects you. It is a necessary and protective response when you are threatened with physical or emotional harm. But it comes at a very high cost.
In the past few months I have been blessed with many challenges which have pressed me in closer to God. I kind of like it there. In the presence of God we find peace, comfort, serenity, confidence and provision. Now that I’ve had a deeper taste of what it is like, sheltered in the presence of God, I’m not so excited about getting all up in a twist over the behavior someone else and losing that peace.
In Matthew chapter 11 Jesus says “Come to me all you who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”
Have you ever wondered what the “yoke” of Jesus is? I read that verse and think “Heck yes! Sign me up. I’d gladly exchange burdens with you, Lord. Just show me how.”
But I could never figure out exactly how to take up His yoke. A few weeks ago it hit me. It’s right there in the verse: “learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart…” Giving up our right to be angry is not easy, but when we do it, and follow Jesus’ example of responding with gentleness and humility, we are stepping into His yoke where there is peace instead of distress.
With one phone call, I had a chance to put that into practice (gee, thanks God )
Anger, bitterness, resentment, those are all heavy burdens. Carrying them pulls us out from Jesus’ yoke and we have to bear the load ourselves. If we are willing to give them up and take on a humble and lowly heart, we become yoked to Jesus. Then HE carries the bulk of the weight while giving us peace, rest, comfort, protection, guidance, and every other thing we need.
Giving up our right to respond in anger at the behaviors of people around us is the cost of remaining yoked to Jesus so we can walk in peace. The cost to remain in anger is much higher.
Choosing peace means I could say with absolute confidence: “Lord I know you’ve got this. I trust you already have a plan in place to take care of our needs.” I slept well that night, completely secure in the knowledge whatever happened with our event, it would be okay.
At the next church service I stood up and without drama, without criticizing or hinting at any irresponsibility on the part of anyone else, I simply explained we needed some more help with the activities. Immediately George, who owns a party supply rental business, stood up and offered the use of a bounce house, a cotton candy machine, and a dunk tank. Wowzers! The congregation caught on to his enthusiasm and we quickly found volunteers to run a slip and slide, make balloon characters, and organize some outdoor games.
We ended up with a family carnival that far out-shown our original plans and it brought people together who would not have normally participated in a children’s event.
Instead of infecting others with the bitterness and resentment that flows from anger, the atmosphere of calm and peace meant people got infected with George’s enthusiasm instead. God shows up when His people walk with His Son.