How to Hoe a Row

This weekend we dismantled the bunk-beds in my son’s room and moved all the furniture around to his liking. Some of the furniture required my husband’s help to move. As he and I finagled a bookcase into a corner of the room, he had to caution me to take it easy pushing. I was surprised, and commented that I wasn’t aware that I was actually contributing that much to the effort. I thought it was significant to realize that I contribute more than I am aware. Let me use two other examples to show you what I’m thinking.

When my son was in preschool he had an insightful teacher who was obviously plugged in when God enlightened her to his character. She told me that his main goal in school was to move through the work as quickly as possible so that he could get on with the important thing – playing. The class was finishing a unit on Indians when it became apparent to me how absolutely true this assessment was.  Parents were invited to visit the classroom to view the work the children had done during the unit, including paper bag tee-pees that they had painted with Indian symbols, stripes, animals, etc. I could spot Wil’s from the doorway. It was a big smear of finger-painted mud. He had made just enough effort to say that he participated.

The other example I want to share is one of those stories that is handed down and passed around so much that you don’t know whether it has any foundation. It is utterly ridiculous to the point of being both believable and beyond belief.  The story is about a man who sued his car’s manufacturer because his car crashed when he set the cruise control and then climbed into the backseat to make a sandwich.

And maybe one more idea while we’re on the subject of cars and cruise control. What about your navigational system? When you tell it where to go, will it drive you there if you contribute nothing to the process?

Here’s the Sesame Street application. What do all these stories have in common as they apply to our relationship with God? The answer is… some participation is required, but we have to be careful to apply just the right amount – ease up, but don’t climb into the backseat.

I could leave it go right there, but I’ve been thinking about Matthew 11:28-30:

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.

Not one of the examples I gave you illustrates the right amount of participation with Jesus. When we take His yoke upon us it is light and easy because He’s bearing all the weight. We get to tag along like a child at his Daddy’s heels, our faces upturned in devoted adoration, and pretend to work with Him. He invites us and includes us and we sweat as we move alongside Him, but we don’t know how to hold the reigns or turn the plow.

Make it real. If Jesus had been on the other end of my bookcase, I should have been asking, “Is this right? Do I need to lift now? Am I pushing too hard?” If Wil had been letting Jesus paint through him, he should have been asking, “What color? What shape? What size?” If the man in the car…well, there’s really no hope for that man, but when you turn on your Holy Spirit-navigational system you have to ask, “Left? Right? How fast? How far?”  And you have to steer where He tells you to go.  

Do you see it? It is work at rest. Movement without force. Action without striving. Where my Daddy goes, I want to go too. Unfortunately too many of us have lost that tender innocence in our love for our Father and we’ve become independent teenagers off charting our own course and determining our own destinies, captains of our fate. We’ve pushed too hard, rushed through the work, or taken our hands off the wheel and disengaged from the process completely. And forget about a yoke, I’ll plow my own row thank you! All by myself!

Well I hate to belabor the point so you’ll have to ponder all this as you walk along the furrow with the Lord. I know my shoes are already getting dusty and I can smell the fresh scent of newly tilled soil. Based on what I’m experiencing I can reassure you that He’ll show you what adjustments you need to make. Just don’t wander off, try to pull ahead, or pick your feet up and hang in the yoke. I’m thinking that would be unproductive.