For my yoke is easy and my burden is light – Matthew 11:30
A facebook friend mentioned recently that she asked the Lord, and I paraphrase, “why this has to be so hard”, and He responded, “It doesn’t”. I believe that.
When I was a child, I didn’t have a very close relationship with my father. That’s just the way it was; just the way He was. He died at a relatively early age, and I have long since recognized that he was just being who he was, that he didn’t know how to be any other way; and I look forward to the time when we are able to embrace, accepting each other, loving each other, for who we are, not in spite of who we are. One of the things I remember was that, if we ever worked together on something, like fixing the car, he had little patience for letting me do things and figure things out myself. He took over the work, and “working together” quickly devolved into me watching him do it. As a result, any time I participated in such a project, it was either out of guilt because I knew he didn’t really want me to help but he asked me anyway (his guilt), or resulted in guilt because I couldn’t ever be good enough. Aren’t families great?
This morning I prayed, asking the Lord to help me become a “more nimble servant”; to teach me, guide me, etc. I asked ( asked of myself, really) how this instruction would manifest itself, and I quickly realized that it would be the exact opposite of my instructional experiences with my father. I understood that the Lord’s instruction would be very hands off, with guidance and insight offered, but not imposed. This, of course, leaves me in a situation where I need to be aware of when my thoughts, actions, and feelings are counter-productive to my desire to become a more nimble servant. In other words, I need to be open, inviting correction or instruction, and receiving it willingly. Otherwise, the instruction may well go unnoticed, un-received, and unproductive; and my sincere, even passionate desire to become a more nimble servant is likely to go unrealized.
So, I’ve presented two concepts early on in this essay. First – Christ’s way is easy. Second, I need to be constantly aware of and sensitive to the Lord’s instruction, because it will never be forced upon me.
I think these two concepts are actually integrated with each other. In other words, if I can learn to be constantly aware of and sensitive to the Lord’s instruction, not throwing up roadblocks to that instruction, His way will indeed be easy, and His burden will be light. As awareness of this truth came to me this morning, I continued to pray and, as so often happens, little bits of knowledge and understanding started coming together into a knowable truth, kind of like the atoms of Captain Kirk and Spock being reconstituted in the transporter on the star ship Enterprise – they existed before, but had yet to be organized (or re-organized) into a recognizable form.
Here’s that recognizable (I hope) form. If I’ve invited Christ to abide in me, and I hope to have Him honor my invitation, I need make sure my carnal manifestation, my body ,my temple, His abode, is a place where He is comfortable abiding. That doesn’t mean it has to be perfectly clean all the time, but it has to be comfortable enough that His hope for a fruitful harvest is greater than any discomfort I might inflict on Him from time to time. To put it another way, my thoughts and feelings need to be as pure, smooth, uplifting, and light-filled as possible if I am to be considered a gracious host.
As I have pointed out so many times before, the scripture D&C 67:10 comes to mind:
And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you stripyourselves from jealousies and fears, and humbleyourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.
There are conditions in this scripture that may not apply to me or you or to this particular topic, but I choose to grab that meaty phrase, “…strip yourselves of jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me…” and hang on to it ferociously. I choose to adapt it to myself, to my own life, and to believe that, whether I’ve been called to this ministry or not (let’s not forget, of course, that D&C 4 makes it clear that if we have the desire to serve, we are called), this scripture is a key to removing the elements of my carnal nature that might make His abiding in me uncomfortable. I choose to think that this stripping yourselves, etc. describes the rejection of pride, and that there is a strong correlation between rending the veil and seeing the Lord’s face, as specifically promised in this verse, and having Him choose to abide in me, instructing me in how I can become a more nimble servant. I choose to think that if I can fulfill this requirement, rejecting jealousies and fears, and along with that pride and all of its base manifestations, the windows of heaven will indeed open up to me, and the separation between me and the Lord, and between me and you, can indeed be healed. I choose to believe that the veil will be rent, and that the Lord will manifest Himself to me in whatever way He, in His loving wisdom, will choose. I choose to believe that in doing these things, I offer to Him an invitation that, as with the brother of Jared, He is unable to refuse.
Ok, so where’s the easy part? If you’ve thought much about it at all, you realize, as I do, that stripping oneself of jealousies and fears is nowhere near easy. It’s not even in the same universe as “easy”.
Well, I think I have a clue. The secret to this being easy lies in adopting a personal “zero tolerance” policy – zero tolerance for any thought, feeling, emotion, or especially action, that is not peaceful. Yep, here we have a pretty simple standard. We need to be peaceful (can you say “peaceable followers of Christ?). I figure you’re all very much like me. We KNOW when we’re engaging in thoughts and feelings that are not Christ-like, that are not born out of charity. We KNOW when we have thoughts that generate from and perpetuate contention, or seek to control others. We just need to implement a zero tolerance policy for these things.
Upon the death of President Monson, there were a lot of things posted on facebook about Elder Nelson’s impending ascension to the top spot in the LDS Church. Some of those things were not particularly nice. Sarcasm, criticism, and a mocking tone were readily apparent. And this was among us who supposedly have risen above such things – those of us who proclaim to be seeking Zion. Of course, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon (no pun intended – really!) to know that such expressions of disdain and disrespect for another human being, or an organization of human beings, are not going to get us, either individually or collectively, any closer to being ready for the Lord to bring again His Zion.
If I want my journey into His presence, however His presence manifests itself, to be fulfilled; if I want Him to be so comfortable abiding in me, instructing me, on how to be a more nimble servant, then I need to learn to be very, very quick to reject these things as they almost inevitably pop into my consciousness. The more diligent I am in rejecting them, the more hope, even confidence, Christ will have that abiding in me, in spite of the occasional discomfort I might inflict upon Him, will bear sweet fruit. Furthermore, the more I practice rejecting them, the more sensitive I become to them; the more uncomfortable they will be for me, too, and, of course, the more I will become Christ-like. You see, I think these thoughts, fueled not by charity, but by jealousy and fear and pride, are the real sins that we must repent of – the sins that Christ cannot look upon with the least allowance. These thoughts – the precursors of any action – are the things that separate us from Christ and keep us from recognizing, let along carrying out, His will. This is one of the key messages of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Christ sought to instruct us how to go about fulfilling the two great commandments.
It occurs to me that I have not yet defined what it means to be a more nimble servant. Well, actually, I have. A “more nimble servant” is one who does not have to think hard in order to determine what the Lord’s will is because it has become instinctive for them; the Lord’s will has become part of their nature; because this more nimble servant has stripped himself (or herself – more likely herself, actually) of the thoughts, feelings, emotions – the jealousies and fears and pride – that separate us from Christ, and hide from us His true nature, and thus His will. To know Him (john 17:3) is to have eternal life, is to be one with Him, is to be free of these pollutions that prevent us from ascending to the realization of all that we were created to be.
In my prayer this morning, as I said, I prayed that I might become a “more nimble servant”, a servant who doesn’t need to stop and think about whether I’m doing the right thing or not, because not only is the Lord comfortable abiding in me, but my own nature is such that His will is my will, His nature is my nature. I have no illusions about the process of becoming a more nimble servant. There remain many pollutions that must be cleansed before these conditions will have prevailed. I have to begin with brutal honesty, addressing my fears, my resentments, my judgments and prejudices before Him. I think He can handle the honesty, offered in humility, but not deception. I think nothing will more certainly drive Him from me, and damn this process into fruitlessness, than deception.
Still, I have faith unto action. I have no control over how the baptism of fire is (or was) manifested unto me. I have no control over how the Lord chooses (or chose) to manifest His promised comforts unto me. But I have control over the things I mentioned above; and I have faith in the concept that if I can purify myself, thus opening myself up to His instructive wisdom and purifying love, I can fully receive every promise He has ever made – and those promises are many. And you know what? I don’t care about the promises themselves. I really don’t. I care about the fact that He has offered them, and that he paid a great price for the privilege of offering them, and I simply cannot tolerate the thought of leaving these gifts on the table, simply because I am too fearful, or jealous, or prideful, or selfish to honor them.
“My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Why in the world should it be difficult for us to invite peace to rule our thoughts? Why is it not easy to become a more nimble servant? Christ says that we are to take upon us His yoke. His yoke is free of jealousies and fears and pride. If we take upon us His yoke, it will be easy. We know. We have the ability to recognize. This is in our control. On this we can exercise faith unto repentance, and then unto action. We just need to adopt a zero tolerance policy for anything that tweaks or dims that light of Christ within us. If we do this, then we can become one with Him, His sons and daughters…His more nimble servants.