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How do you know if you’re walking in step with the Spirit?
I mean we’re all unique and in different circumstances? Who’s to say I’m bearing fruit and Jill down the road isn’t or why does it look like Jane next door’s got wheelbarrows full of fruit and I’ve got no crop this year due to a pest problem (and-hang-on-a-minute-does-Jane-even-know-Jesus?).
I remember something I was told once. I can’t remember the context though. So this might be the punchline of a joke or it could be a real story but the point is the same.
The story was about an old woman who was a cranky piece of work but went to church every week. The parishioners questioned whether she was a true Christian or not based on her behaviour. The Pastor’s response was, “Just imagine what she must have been like before she met the Holy Spirit.”
You see we don’t always know what’s going on for people.
One of the greatest Christians I have ever known was a boss I had when I was teaching. She was an older woman who frowned all the time and spoke abruptly in a gruff kind of way like she was always at the very the edge of her patience. She still laughed and she had a kind of squinting smile, but her face never fully lit up. I was a bit scared of her at first. Over time I saw that she had a gentle, kind heart under her gruff manner and it was all a bit of a mystery until after about a year I discovered that she had had the same migrane for about 20 years.
We just don’t know what loads people are bearing.
But Jesus does. He knows your load.
In Matthew 11:28-30 He says,
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.
Jesus wants to be yoked with us.
Now I am no oxen trainer or pioneer wagon driver but what little I’ve seen of Oxen shows me that a stronger Oxen and a weaker oxen yoked together would mean a wagon going in circles. Wouldn’t it?
Jesus is clearly the stronger Ox in this scenario, but he says “My burden is light” so clearly he takes a lot of the weight.
However, God does not just walk beside us. The Holy Spirit is God within us. When we are yoked with God, he is right beside us taking the load and leading by example but he is also in us. We can walk in step with him only because he is in us. Otherwise we would be too weak, we’d be turning the entire team because we were too slow.
Here is something I read about training Oxen, when I googled this. It made me think about the role of the Father in the yoking. We’ve got Jesus beside us, the Holy Spirit in us and God the Father giving the commands.
Here is what oxen trainer Drew Conroy suggests to trainers in his book, Oxen: a Teamster’s guide to Raising, Training, Driving and Showing.
Your oxen should learn to depend on you for all cues. Do not allow them to respond to their natural instincts or their surroundings.
Well think about it, if an ox is allowed to wander over to every tasty looking piece of grass, sooner or later they’ll take the whole team over a cliff.
So how am I going? Am I allowing myself to be yoked with Jesus? Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to fill me and stop me going in circles? Am I listening to the cues of the Father and obeying them? or am I responding to my natural instincts and my surroundings?
How are you going?