As a mother, but more specifically as an adoptive mother, the scenario she describes caught my attention immediately. I read it and re-read it while somewhere in the recesses of my mind a thought continued to escape me. Until now.
What I find so interesting is not the question that was posed, but the narrow scope of response to it. I'm beginning to think that the devil straps blinders on to Christians as soon as the waters of Baptism have dried. Not that the responses were narrow-minded, mind you. The comments were categorically in support of the caller. And it is a good thing to see Christians encouraging and supporting one another--looking for the silver lining, as it were, to her dark cloud. There are plenty of Christian circles where the bus doesn't even make that stop.
But still. About midway through the comments I had a feeling that I just couldn't shake. The responses felt lacking. There was a quality of falsehood or impossibility or maybe they were, in my mind, simply inadequate. But why? What was it that continued to nag at me? I attempted to put the thought out of my head, but to no avail. Until finally something clicked. There was a cavernous gorge that refused to be bridged in this situation. In my situation. In any Christian's situation.
The disconnect comes with the presumption of this caller and the subsequent comments that a life lived in line with God's will equals a life void of struggle and suffering. There's the rub, eh? No wonder the woman caller was beside herself with worry about her situation. People mistakenly believe that a Christian life, lived according to God's will, is a cake walk. Particularly Christians.
I won't do anyone the disservice of pointing out the times--especially online-- where people have publicly declared that the unraveling of their lives was a direct result of their not following "God's will". The beautiful scripture from St. Matthew's gospel is often quoted to illustrate their point:
- "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
- Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.
- For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." Matthew 11: 28-30
But does it really?
Have you ever seen a yoke? The kind a farmer might have used to harness a pair of oxen together? The yoke alone might weigh roughly 100 pounds. But compared to the approximately two tons of oxen hitched to it, it seems small--almost insignificant. Its significance, however, is integral to the success of the difficult work the oxen must do.
And right there, in the seemingly irrelevant yoke referenced by St. Matthew , is where those two polar opposites of suffering and joy intersect with God's will.
The farmer yokes his oxen together by virtue of the fact that if they were left to themselves the difficult task at hand would be nearly impossible to accomplish. As a matter of fact, the oxen will be completely dependent on this piece of equipment throughout their work. If it breaks, it could endanger the people with the oxen as well as the oxen themselves. Not to mention that there will be great stress on the yoke as the work progresses and the oxen themselves grow in size and stature. A good farmer (and probably anyone with an 8th grade physics education) knows that a longer yoke is necessary for pulling simple loads while the difficult work of pulling a heavy burden requires a short yoke, where the animals are yoked closely together for greater combined strength.
What would I have told the woman caller?
I think I know now.
I would have offered her encouragement of a different kind, I think. I would have reminded her to pray for God's will and then to yoke herself tightly--with the shortest yoke possible--to God. Because the Christian journey isn't always easy--even when we are following God's will. And it is always in God's will to drawn us ever closer--and yoke us ever tighter--to Him.