I bought some new shoes recently. I tried them on in the shop and they fitted comfortably. I walked around there, admiring their snug fit. Yet no sooner had I got them home than I discovered the right shoe rubs my foot as the top of the shoe chafes agsinst my skin as I walk.
I’m not used to shoes chafing there; usually, it’s the heel that rubs. But even when I’m wearing socks or tights, these new shoes rub my skin raw. They will not last, I fear. The discomfort leaves me limping.
Just lately I’ve been meditating on Matt 11:28-30, drawn back to familiar verses perhaps because I do feel weary. I’ve been thinking about the yokes mentioned there. How yokes often rub against us, chafing us, restricting us, burdening us. The yoke of parental expecation. The yoke of other people’s opnions. The yoke of our duties and responsibilities. So often, we can feel hemmed in, constrained, chafed. Raw skin eventually bleeds and cripples us. There are many people who feel like that on a daily basis. They may not look as though they are limping, but inside, they are.
The Message version of these verses doesn’t directly mention yokes (an old-fashioned farming analogy that means little to modern Westerners.) It says, ‘I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.’
Ill-fitting shoes or clothes are uncomfortable, restraining and can actually make us ill (I always think of Keira Knightley’s character in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ gasping ‘I can’t breathe!‘ because of her corset before she passes out!) Life is not meant to be lived like that. Jesus urges us to come to Him if we are weary and heavy laden and find rest for our souls. He promises to exchange yokes with us, but His yoke is not ill-fitting. He doesn’t weigh us down with expectations and guilt, but accepts us and frees us. ‘Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly’, He says (Matt 11:30, The Message)
This is the life we all need.