At the beginning of this year I sensed God pressing the pause button on my writing. Not now, He said, not yet. I nodded and said OK. You’ve got stuff in your heart that needs to come out, He said — black, tarry, sticky stuff. I sighed and told Him I knew.
There was a stronghold in my life, a particular set of sins I’d been unequally yoked to. So I stopped writing and started working hard with God instead. Except I wasn’t always working with Him; sometimes I was working against. I complained, I reasoned, I argued. I contended that I was right and He was wrong. I kicked against those goads, oh yes I did.
Until one morning this month when breakthrough began, and the yoke began to crack. Later that day I sensed God lifting the ban on writing, almost as if to say, Ok, now you can start writing again, and THIS is what you need to write about.
Which is why I’m here today, taking a deep breath and walking to the front of the online support group we call Velvet Ashes. It’s why I’m steadying my feet, looking into your lovely virtual faces, and announcing that I’m Elizabeth, and I’ve been yoked to bitterness. I’ve harbored unforgiveness in my heart. I’ve been very, very angry.
If Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden light, I most certainly haven’t been wearing it. My yoke has been heavy, ponderous, and difficult to bear. My yoke weighed me down; it had me slogging through my days. It had me rehearsing my hurts again and again — the same wrongs, the same offenses, the same injuries, over and over.
My mind was a tempest, an endless hurricane of bitter thoughts swirling round and round but never quite reaching the calm in the storm, never reaching the place where I could acknowledge that the injustices happened but where my heart would no longer be troubled by them.
I wanted to forgive. I wanted to obey. But I wanted to feel it, too, and I just didn’t. I kept repenting of my unforgiveness. I kept speaking the words “I forgive” over the situation, but no warm fuzzy feelings followed. I was still angry and bitter. I was still unforgiving.
And underneath all that unforgiveness, you know what I found? Pride. A proud heart that said I deserved better. A proud heart that expected more from life, more from God, more from the humanity He created. My yokes were heavy, my yokes were many. My yokes were almost too much to bear.
Then one morning I asked God how He sees my offender. This is how He answered my prayer: I’m your Father. I’m a good Father, and I feel the same tenderness towards you that I feel towards the inflictors of some of your deepest pain. They are my Beloved, same as you.
It was almost too painful to hear, but I knew it was true. Tears began streaming down my face. They poured over my jagged, sinful yokes. They sliced through the wood of my petrified heart. Love trickled in and loosened my yokes.
I wanted to wriggle out of them and leave them there in the field of my past forever, but I knew I’d probably face bitter thoughts again. I’d probably feel indignation rising up within me again. And I’d probably be tempted to slip those burdens back onto my shoulders.
I also knew this moment with God was a turning point for me. I knew I could go back to the day God showed me His merciful heart for the people who’d wronged me, and I knew that when I did, I’d be able to once more lay down my yoke of sin and ask for His light and easy yoke instead.
I’m calmer now – almost supernaturally so – and I’m no longer stuck in the vortex of my own hatred. Still, I’m waking up each morning and asking God to remove any residual yoke of bitterness. I’m asking Him to remove the remnants of unforgiveness and pride. I’m releasing people from the debt of repaying me and from the expectation of apologizing.
I’m standing amongst the wreckage, taking my cues from the parable of the unforgiving servant, and absorbing the damages myself. I’m remembering, through tears and thankful smiles, that these injuries don’t tell the whole story of my life, a story that from beginning to end brims with the goodness of God’s love.
It’s always an unequal partnership when we bind ourselves to sin. The yoke of sin is heavy. It’s too much weight for our feeble souls to carry. Unforgiveness, bitterness, pride – these are my yokes. They weigh me down, they chafe against my neck, they break upon my skin. They steer my life toward the pit. But these days, I’m exchanging them for a better yoke, an easier and lighter one.
There’s only one Person who can give me that kind of yoke, and His name is Jesus.
What sins have you been unequally yoked to? How might God want to gently break those yokes today?
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