Are your own shoulders and neck tense? Mine often are too…It is common when you are pulling a cart of expectations, worry, and past grievances. I know many people who pull around decades of history – she/he did this to me. I experienced this wrong. The funny thing? Their cart just gets heavier as history repeats. Yet people think holding the burden in the hand keeps history from repeating.
We act according to what we hold in our thoughts. Focusing on the burden in the hand makes us act to keep that burden in the hand.
“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
Jesus tells us His yoke is easy and the burden we pull when we follow Him is light. It took me a long time to realize His burden means no cart at all. There isn’t a yoke either. I used to think this passage meant keeping all this little commandments; always watching the mind to be sure it isn’t falling into what I considered sinful thinking. I forgot that He also said “I am gentle and humble in heart.” I was only trading one heavy cart and yoke for another. One I wrongly thought was true, and one of my own making.
So what does Jesus teach? Forgiveness, compassion, and peace.
Forgiveness allows us to leave the overflowing cart of past grievances behind. We don’t need to lug grievances around to learn from them. Keeping them with us makes it easier to react them. Forgiveness is about letting go and living in the present. Living in the past is futile; it is gone forever. The cart we pull is empty, yet it weighs more than a mountain in our minds.
Compassion lifts the yoke from the shoulders. Judgmental thoughts are heavy. Compassion is unconditional love and regard for all things around us. How light we can feel when we realize people are not threatening or competing with us. They are living the best they can; just as we are. Coupled with forgiveness, we realize people who seem mean or angry are suffering from some problem or making a mistake. We can let it go and wish them the best instead of adding a non-existent weight to our cart. Perhaps the person who wronged you is suffering.
Peace helps us leave the cart far behind and the yoke off the shoulders. Worry is failure to live in the present. We worry about the past and the future. Neither are constructive. Past is past and cannot be changed. The future depends on our present thoughts and actions. If we live peacefully with compassion and forgiveness, the future is far more likely to be positive than if we live with worry, fear, and expectation. Expectations are rarely fulfilled. Yet despite repeated disappointments we hold onto them. Silly isn’t it? How do we turn off worry? Live in the present. Focus on the present: you are breathing and reading this sentence. See how worry instantly dissolves when you read this sentence and only read this sentence?
We choose how we think and act. Jesus teaches us a light, gentle, and easy way to live. He shows us a more natural way to live: love God, love others and yourself. Nothing else matters. The burden in the hand is only one of our own making.