Thursday, April 18, 2013

Here's to the Heavy-Laden

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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 will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
   Matthew 11:28-30
For those who don't have the entire Bible memorized, or at least a really good picture of who is generally quoted in the New Testament, I want to point out one really important thing about this verse:

the person speaking is JESUS.

Now, why would I consider that something really important to point out?

Here's the thing: if I say that I believe that God created me and all things, and that Jesus is God and a member of the Trinity, and that God always speaks the truth, then

anytime God speaks, we need to listen.

So, Jesus is speaking here. Oh Lord, help us hear!

The scripture quoted above is from the NIV (New International Version of the Bible). Another translation where I have heard teaching on this scripture was NASB (New American Standard Bible), and it uses a really interesting word. Instead of "burdened", NASB uses the word "heavy-laden."


That's an interesting term. It is certainly not a common descriptor these days, so what does it really mean?

To get my point across, I think it would best be done through this picture:

© Jessica Van Eaton 2013

This pine tree is absolutely covered in snow. Probably close to 8 inches at the tallest of mounds. And because it has all of its needles, there are giant blankets of snow weighing down each branch. They are sagging and stooping under the beautiful white blankets of snow.

There is so much weight, it is literally bending over from all of the weight.

It can't stand up straight!

This tree is heavy-laden with snow. It is such a deep descriptor when we look at our lives.
When we are weary (aka. exhausted and tired) and heavy-laden (or deeply burdened), we are so overwhelmed by that which is burdening us and exhausting us that we are not physically, emotionally, or spiritually able to hold ourselves upright!

And it is in those exhaustive moments in our lives that Jesus is speaking to us. Listen to his words: "Come to me ... and I will give you rest." Rest! He will lift away that which is pinning us down and give us the moments we need to be rejuvenated.

" will find rest for your souls."

How beautiful is that image? To have our very souls be at rest. To have our striving, our worry, our panic, our issues, our fears and all other 'problems' be pealed away from our weary souls so that we may finally live in a place of rest. A place of calm. A place of hope. And a place of complete trust. For we can only rest in the midst of the chaos of this world when we are constantly reminding ourselves that we can trust God to have power and dominion over all of it!

But there is a part in the middle that we need to look at. It tells us how we will find that rest. What path we need to take.

"Take my yoke upon you ... For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

What is the yoke that Jesus is speaking about?

For starters, a yoke is commonly used to strap two strong animals together, to use their combined strength for work like tilling or plowing a field. Horses, oxen, and other large animals have often been yoked together by man to make the work faster and easier than with one animal striving on its own.
But for a yoke to work best, both animals must be similar in size, strength and temperament.
Sometimes, though, a yoke can be used to work through some of those differences, especially temperament. The one who is weaker will be lifted up by the stronger, and the one who is restless will be mellowed by the calm.

The labor that is requiring this particular yoke which Jesus is speaking about is the work that we are to do in the world. There is so much 'tilling' and 'plowing' and 'planting' that has to be done! Yes, I am speaking in the spiritual terms of those words: sharing the good news and planting seeds of righteousness! And it is certainly not something that is an easy task. And certainly not a task that can be accomplished alone!

So how can Jesus say that his yoke is easy? And that his burden is light? How can that be true when we already know that the task is daunting?

I believe it is because in 'taking his yoke', you are choosing to be yoked to Jesus for the work that we are called. And he is the strongest and most well-tempered there will ever be! The burden on us is light and easy, for Jesus is the one able to do the 'heavy lifting' when we find ourselves stumbling. He is the one who knows the most straightforward path that must be taken for each task. What a blessing that he even offers to do this for us!

"... learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart ..."

Lastly, we are called to learn the ways of Jesus. By yoking ourselves to him, we are allowing him to teach us -- his temperament, the path that he follows, where he gathers his strength -- and allowing our spirit to learn from his guidance.
And in the midst of teaching us, he is promising to do so with gentleness and kindheartedness. I also believe he is saying that we are called to learn the qualities of a gentle and humble heart from him.

Learning by being yoked is not an instant fix for our struggles and ineptitude. But God is patient! 

What a beautiful gift he is constantly giving us -- his time, his patience, Him!
At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to the little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."
   Matthew 11:25-26

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

True Beauty

All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.
  Song of Songs 4:7
In this fast-paced, first-class world of America, there never ceases to be a barrage of information and opinions about anything and everything.
And by anything and everything, I pretty much mean everything that really doesn't matter.
At least not in how it's being approached.

One such thing, in my opinion, is beauty.

Men, here are my questions that I want you to ponder:
What does it mean for a woman to be beautiful?
Have you ever met a beautiful woman?

Much of what I am going to write will be geared toward women (since I am one), but I believe there are still many good nuggets of truth for you to find. So, please keep reading!

Here is my question for you women reading this:

Are you beautiful?

Zing. There it is. One of the most dreaded questions I have ever faced.

Go ahead, write down your answer!
Elaborate in all of your jumbles of thoughts, opinions and descriptions or yourself. Write out the details of everything you deem notable, anything to support your answer.

Have you finished writing yet? No rush! I want you to be utterly and completely honest with yourself.
After all, this isn't some homework assignment you are required to turn in. It is perfectly acceptable to shred the evidence after all is said and done! (Though I would recommend keeping it ... you'll see why)

Now, what did you answer?

In high school, which is a pretty tough time for most people, my answer would have been a meek yet final


I say meek because I was very shy, and in many ways not outspoken ... at least when it came to my own feelings of self-worth. I was great at sharing my opinions in the classroom (well, at least by senior year), and pointing out the misrepresentation of some of my fellow believers, outspokenly imploring them to change their behaviors and be an example to others. But none of these people really knew me. Maybe they think they knew me, but I am almost positive they didn't. The me that never saw much value in myself; the me that constantly compared every aspect of myself (looks, height, voice, friendliness, intellect, the ability to be fun) to other girls in my class, and the me that never truly believed I would one day be married.

High school, especially the first three years, was a very rough time for me. My senior year was rough for a different reason, but all in all I am thankful it is over and done with.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.
  1 Peter 3:3

Thankfully, high school was a long time ago. I graduated almost 6 years ago! And, in that time, there has been a lot of changing and growing.

I am now no longer a girl.

I am a woman.

But, on many days, that little question scares the living daylights out of me. Because there are still a good number of days where, if I am really honest with myself, the answer would still be 'no.'

On those days, I could write really long lists detailing my flaws and failures, my struggles and inadequacies, my every slip-up and my overall ineptitude.

On those days, I have succumbed to


Thankfully, today is not one of 'those days.' Which is why I can write this post.
And, by God's grace alone, those days are constantly getting fewer and farther between.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.
  1 Peter 3:3-4

Ladies -- are you beautiful?

Take a moment and re-read what you wrote down. I pray most of you wrote Yes!, though I have a sinking feeling that is not the case.

Now I want to ask you a different question. One the guys were supposed to ponder over and answer.

What does it mean to be beautiful?

DOVE did this really cool project to help show women how they are too hard on themselves in terms of beauty. That they are misrepresenting themselves in their own minds. That their self-view of beauty needs to be changed and grown to accurately reflect what the world sees.

I really enjoyed the video, and I believe it will help many women take a step in the right direction.

But I have one really big problem with this project.

We shouldn't be putting any merit on what the world sees.

To have the world's view be our end goal in growth, is like saying that a 5-year old is mature.
A five-year old is not mature! There is so much more room to grow!

In light of those comments, I want to change your question, ladies. Here is your new question:

Did God make me beautiful?

Every time the world presents you with a new image or opinion or statement pertaining to beauty, I want you to return to this question. NOT the first question I gave you!

Because, in reality, your opinion of you does not matter. Your thoughts on what is beautiful, your like or dislike of your chin, your comparison to others, or even whether you are doing a good job at not comparing yourself to others. None of that is of any importance.

What matters is what God sees in you.

Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
  1 Peter 3:4-6
"Do not give way to fear"! No more worrying about your appearance or your struggles or your failures, no more succumbing to fear and lies that you are not sufficient for the roles in which God has placed you.

For God sees beauty.

Because that is how He made you! In His image, in His grace, in His strength, in His feminine beauty!

Your beauty shows God to the whole world.

And that is what I want the world to be seeing! God! Not me, not my opinions, not my physical, temporal beauty, and not my fears and failures. God!

Did God make you beautiful? Yes! 
And yes again!

Below your written answer, I want you to write this down:

My unfading beauty will display my God to the world!

"... the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit ..." All you who are able, come near and hear! Let your ears be opened to the lies being fed to this generation!

There is great strength in humility. There is great strength and power in a calm, gentle, kind woman.
There is great power in the simplicity of God-given beauty.

And your beauty shines brightest for the world ... when you are no longer struggling to be beautiful.

Even if it is hidden under years of lies, struggles and battle scars, the beauty given to you by God is something you can never lose. Anything else is a lie by the Devil. Because he is jealous of your beauty. And he is afraid of it's strength.

You are a woman of great power, able to be used by God for His glory. Able to show the world the deep and abiding beauty that comes from confidence in the way you have been made, unwavering faith in God's intimate love for you, and unfailing peace in your view of self, for it comes directly from how God views you. How He made you.

Perfect. Designed with purpose.
Every little quirk intended just for you. Every little nuance designed specifically for the Path you have been made for.

Ladies, you are beautiful in the eyes of God, the one who made you.

Gentlemen, the women around you are in a battlefield. They are blinded to the beauty of God that has been placed inside of them. Pray! Fight for them! And never cease to share His Words and His compassion with them, for this battle is sapping their strength. (Which is what the Devil wants!) Lend them your strength, your prayers, your confidence in God's Word and the role of these women for the glory of God. Loose them from this battle so they may press forward into the ones they have been called.

Remind them that they are each a beautiful princess, the daughter of the King above all Kings, whose beauty they have inherited from their Father, and whose gentle confidence and humble servitude will fight many great battles for the glory of the Lord. 

And will let their beauty shine.
 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
  Proverbs 31:25-30