Welcome to the Geauga County Fair!” This was the sign posted in front of a towering ceramic Black Angus cow wearing a red cowboy hat at the entrance of a livestock barn. This was also the scene of our first date where Barry, now my husband, and I agreed to meet. The week before, he saw my profile on his feed on an “Over 50” online dating service. He liked my picture and bio and decided to message me. I readily answered him since he seemed like a decent guy. We engaged in a lively conversation on the dating site and then agreed to meet. The next weekend, Labor Day, he drove an hour from a northern county in Ohio near Lake Erie and I drove an hour from a western county, converging upon a designated spot at the fair.
We chatted easily as we strolled together down the fairway, past the ubiquitous fair food, settling on some BBQ beef sandwiches and fries for lunch. I enjoyed getting to know him as he generously complimented me. Most importantly during that initial rendezvous, I had to make sure that our belief in God matched up. If this relationship was to lead to marriage, I could not be “unequally yoked” with someone who did not believe in Jesus. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
After lunch, we viewed the livestock, the horses, the blue-ribbon quality quilts, arts and crafts, and other agricultural wares on display. That’s when we spotted the big Black Angus ceramic cow and snapped his picture.
We went on the see the “Sea Lion Show.” In that arena, large water tanks held two frisky sea lions that performed tricks for the crowd in exchange for raw fish from their trainer. Between show times, we stood by the pool to have our picture taken with the sea lions who surfaced and put their heads on our shoulders. Smile for the camera everyone!
Barry bought me a framed picture of us with the sea lions as a souvenir. He told me that when he saw how happy he looked in that picture, he knew I was the woman for him. By the end of the day, we were talking about the possibility of marriage and the rest is wedding-bliss history!
I found out later that he was looking for someone who also was a Christian. We both had to “yoked” to Christ before we could be equally “yoked” or joined together. Our underlying agreement to possess Jesus as our life partner pre-empted choosing each other as a life partner. Here is the reason why.
People were never meant to be estranged from God, living their lives without Him. Jesus made an all-encompassing invitation to humanity to come and be “yoked” to Him. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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 shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
The Greek word for “yoke” is translated “to be joined to” and gives the example of the bar that connects two scales. As we join ourselves to Jesus by confession of faith in Him, He lifts the burden of our side of the scale, taking the load upon Himself. Upon that scale we find the worries and heavy-hearted cares of life supernaturally lifted from us. We may experience hardship, but we are not overwhelmed. Barry and I have found this claim of Christ to bear out in two practical ways.
The first way is the “saving rest” that God gives us. Bible scholars agree that Jesus’ appeal in Matthew was an offer to relieve people from trying to keep the Law themselves. The futility people felt in trying to keep God’s commands and failing was the very thing that pointed them to their need of a Savior.
Instead of trying to be “good enough” to please God, people can rest in Christ’s ability to satisfy God’s requirement of perfection for them. Jesus was saying to people in Matthew “Come to Me and I will be your Savior.” He gave them “saving rest” when they joined themselves to Him by faith.
This “saving rest” was accomplished at the Cross where Jesus took the punishment for sin upon Himself. By accepting His payment for sin as our own, we are freed from sin and death. Our confession of Christ puts us on a path towards God and away from sin. The Apostle Paul explains our “saving rest” this way. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
Beyond that wonderful type of rest, there is also a “serving rest” that He provides. This is God’s formidable power at work to serve us in our life needs. The scripture tells us “Cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:17) Once again, Christ is pictured as the “burden bearer” who takes our worries upon Himself because He cares so deeply for our well-being.
Although He is God Almighty, Christ is willing to direct His power to serve helpless humanity. In this scripture, Christ is described as the submissive Son availing Himself to serve our needs. “Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of man…” (Philippians 2: 5-8)
In the Old Testament, the prophet Elisha is found by his counterpart Elijah plowing a field with twelve yoke of oxen. “So he departed from thee and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pair of oxen before him…” (1 Kings 19:19) Elijah threw his cloak upon Elisha, calling him from his earthly plowing to be yoked with God in a supernatural miracle ministry. Twelve pair of oxen supplied hefty muscle power to do the hard work of plowing the hard ground for planting. But now, God was calling him to experience an even greater felt power that God supplied to bring healing and comfort to people in their hardships. Christ continues that same healing ministry pictured by the prophets.
Jesus now exerts “serving rest” to untangle impossible problems that we could never solve. His power is unparalleled yet specific, perfectly measured, personal and useful. His serving power for us is the proving ground of His humility, gentleness and, most of all, His goodness.
Just like that Black Angus cow that towered over people at the fair, God’s power of unmatched strength gives people “serving rest” when they rely on Him. Partnered with God, all things are possible. God can make things happen that people don’t have the power to do themselves. With Jesus, our problems get an unparalleled push and a supernatural shove in the right direction. We don’t have to sweat it. God’s “serving rest” is ours for the asking.
Barry and I believe that God exerted His “serving rest” on our behalf to bring two lonely “over 50” single people together in response to our cries for His help. Life is meant to be in partnership with God and with each other. We have benefited in an amazing, life-changing way from being “yoked” with Jesus, and you can too!