FYI--I couldn't find the photo I thought I had taken of Star and North. (These guys are stand-ins. LOL)
They were great lumbering beasts. Toddlers, only two years old, and yet they stood as high as a man’s head, their hips high off the ground. At maturity, they would stand seven feet tall. It sounds like the first lines of a tall tale, right?
Star and North.
Giant buff-colored oxen brothers, shouldering the same yoke, plodding together on a beaten dirt path in Shaker Village. Steady, one hoof in front of the other, their gait so smooth that the yoke barely rocked between them. Occasionally, North veered, and the trainer touched the fronds of his goad to Norths’ front flank. Once or twice. Then, North slid right back in tandem and in line with Star. Round and round, they circled the large garden plot.
I was fascinated as I watched them, but I soon got distracted (what’s new, right?) by an heirloom tomato variety I had never seen or tasted before. I stood in the sun of the garden, and the tomato’s exquisite flavor exploded in my mouth. Tasting that tomato was an experience, but then I returned to stand with my husband, who was still watching the oxen. They lumbered, though somewhat gracefully, around the circle. The trainer’s voice never gained volume, and their pace never accelerated.
Somewhere in that watching, I remembered Jesus’ words to Saul on the road to Damascus. There Saul stood with warrants for the disciples’ arrest tucked into his waistband and fiery zealousness in his glare, yet he was blinded by a light that brought him to his knees. His companions watched him as he spoke to the air, conversing through and to the light. Luke recorded what Jesus tells our then brother Saul, “it is hard for you to kick against the goads.” And sometime in the next three days, Paul agrees. He learns to heed and respect the goad of Christ. Saul became Paul and took Christ’s yoke, slipped under and into it, and let Christ lead him the rest of the way home.
How akin I am to my then pharisaical brother. Yes, I have lurched in the yoke to avoid the goad and chosen not to respond to its guidance. I have often tried to shake off the yoke, thinking I would find a lighter and easier one elsewhere. And I have thought I shouldn’t even have to wear a yoke. Sometimes, I demanded others to shoulder a yoke like mine, but yokes are meant to be well-fitted, not one size fits all. Christ’s yoke does not chafe or rub when we walk with him, according to the Spirit. Only when I tried to go another direction, refused to go forward, or was too stubborn to turn have I experienced blisters or sore shoulders.
But all the while, my brother Jesus has led me, making the yoke easy and my burden light, walking beside me all the way. Like Paul, I recognize the sweet fit of the yoke now.
And I know this, I don’t want to shoulder that yoke and pull the weight of life by myself.
Oh, and one more thing I noticed about Star and North’s trainer, he didn’t use his goad in anger, malice, force, or the display of power. He used it with great control and gentleness to train, teach, and guide North the way to go.
How could our Jesus do any less?