Jesus tells us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light and yet we seem very keen to pass on a heavy yoke to those around us. We all have troubles accepting the free gift of his love and some of us fall into legalism (living under man-made rules) as a way of coping with our desire to earn our way into his favour. I spent most of my life failing to live under the host of man-made rules I was given by well-meaning believers around me. As I repeatedly failed to be a ‘good Christian’ by following these rules I picked up masses of guilt and slowly found myself sinking under it. Although the churches I attended over the years told me a lot about discipleship I failed to find anyone willing and able to disciple me. It appeared that they were lost in their own versions of guilt and fear.
I was told to read my Bible regularly, ideally daily, but I wasn’t told how to differentiate between the different styles of writing to be found within it. I didn’t have someone to explain that it wasn’t meant to be just read on its own in the present age without some direction. So I slogged my way through it and got lost. Was the song of songs meant to be so utterly confusing and how did it connect with how Paul suggested that I live my daily walk? When I was going through suffering why didn’t the book of Job help? I had so many questions about it all but no one to ask because the guilt I was feeling made me feel stupid for not somehow naturally understanding it all.
I had similar issues with prayer. Oh my days, what was going on here! The people around me were using special language whenever they prayed in public almost like the special voice we all use when on the phone to anyone official. They bowed their heads and clasped their hands as if afraid that God would only accept prayer that was squeezed out of penitent hearts and presented in a predetermined manner. I could only copy these examples and yet again try to deal with the guilt I felt whenever I forgot to end my prayers in the prescribed terminology. And that’s ignoring the weight I lived under for not asking His blessing over every bite of food I consumed.
Just 2 of the areas of my Christian walk that I knew I was getting wrong but didn’t a/ realise that God wasn’t the one making the rules and b/ know how to balance all this with a personality that flipped in and out of passion and peacefulness, weakness and strength, joy and sadness etc. And so most of my life has been walked under a cloud of guilt and shame.
But I believe that God has been slowly guiding me into an easier way with a lighter burden. It has been a growing realisation based on the simple truth that if he loves me as much as it is suggested that he does then it can’t come with strings attached. His wonderful love will only sit right with me if I can’t do anything to either improve it or lose it. Which is kinda my understanding of unconditional. With that love, I can not help but want to serve. Not because I have to but because I want to. As I grow into this relationship with my creator I will rely on my feelings that overall assure me that I am on the right track. My peace of mind is good enough for me, having lived with so little of it for so long.