For twelve years I dedicated myself to Christianity. Not the casual, “add it to your collection of good things you lay claim to” style of Christianity; I rather gave myself to it, immersed myself in it, surrounded myself with it, and spent every waking moment working hard in one fashion or another trying desperately to achieve my understanding of what it meant to “become a new man”. When the Book said that I was supposed to become like Christ, I left nothing out of that definition and sought for all those years to rid myself of every dark feeling, every lascivious tendency, and every desire for the things I had learned were not to be desired. I studied my Bible almost daily, and when I wasn’t studying it I was meditating in its precepts, searching for the understanding of them and their application in my own life, certain that if I could only bridge that gap between the words on those pages and the heart that beat inside of me, I would be able to escape the bondage of this flesh and transcend my own weaknesses, flaws, and ignorance.
To some, what I describe as the mission I dedicated myself to may sound fanatical. To others it may sound like precisely the thing we should all be engaged in. Whatever end of the spectrum one might see it at, one thing I’m sure all would agree on: what I describe must have been a heavy, heavy burden for a young man to bear. After all, what I was trying to accomplish goes against everything that human beings are, and my “from the heart” dedication to this ideal and these goals would not allow me to give less than my all to achieve it. It was a burden, however; a heavy one, filled with discouragement at my own failings and with fear of what those others who I supposed held to the same standards and ideals would think of me if I could not carry it. Because “my” Christianity was so heavy to me, one precept that I always struggled to understand and could not manage to fit in with everything else I knew were the words of Christ in Matthew 11:30 when he told us that “his yoke is easy and his burden is light”. Nothing could have been farther from the truth for me, nothing, and I never understood how he could say such a thing and what he could have possibly meant by it. Until yesterday.
In 2001, the discouragement of continually failing to achieve the unachievable took its toll and I abandoned my quest altogether. Of course, in the years between then and now I have found my way back to a more proper median and have returned to the process of self-improvement of my inner man. The faith I held to for all those years: it was as real as the day. It did not allow me to rest on my laurels, but rather moved me to once again seek for the truth I know must exist, and I have attended classes and worships here and there, read a few books on subjects that can be so abstract sometimes, and I have returned to my own personal study of the book as well. I have not drawn any conclusions on any subject as of yet, but put my efforts into keeping my mind wide open and the information flowing in. I also put my efforts into practicing those things I know to be good and right, which brings me to yesterday.
The recent death of a dear uncle of mine shed a whole new perspective on time and life for me. Being at a place that must surely be near the halfway point in my own lifespan, I cannot but be constantly and keenly aware of the brevity of it all and of those things that matter and those that do not. My own grandparents, whom I love dearly, are well into their 80s, and so I purposed that I would spend more time with them. This can be a challenging thing to do when you work all the time to support a boatload of children and when so many other souls look to you for support, love, and attention. But, I came up with the perfect plan, and so packed up my laptop yesterday morning and headed for the Silver Tree nursing home where my grandma stays. Every day my grandpa goes up there and spends several hours in the middle of the day with her, so since Silver Tree has wireless internet, I decided that I could just work from there and be able to spend time with the both of them. It was as I was driving to the nursing home yesterday, thinking about how well the whole thing was working out, feeling really happy in anticipation of seeing them, being so glad that I was going to be spending time with my beloved grandparents on a weekly basis, that a thought occurred to me: “You know, it really is not hard at all to do good.” And that is when the words of Christ came back to me, too: “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.
I could be way off on my understanding; but then again, I could be spot on, too. It makes perfect sense to me, and I do believe that NOW I understand what he was talking about. Doing good, giving of yourself, loving one another…it is SO easy to do! It’s also well worth the investment of time and energy, and the rewards that come from it…immeasurable. In the whole process of just doing what you know is right, you not only give and receive, but man, you change just a little bit, too. Do it often enough and consistently enough, and the good deeds you do will become who you are. Want to be a good man or woman? Want to truly become a new creature, or put on Christ, or any other phrasing that means the same thing? It’s your actions on the outside that have the ability to change who you are on the inside. Knowledge is a first prerequisite, but the doing of it is what actually accomplishes true change. Like the weather can carve stone, doing well will carve a new man, one grain at a time. And the beauty of it: it’s not a hard thing to do at all. It’s easy, and the yoke, it really is a light one to bear.
Just my take.