Many people in our local community have long anticipated their annual outings to the North Stonington Agricultural Fair, sponsored by the local Grange and Volunteer Fire Department. Notice of the cancellation of this year’s fair brought back memories of our family times there when my children were young. I invite you to reminisce with me.
“Mommy, when are we going to the fair?” This would be the chorus I heard each summer as announcements of the local North Stonington Agricultural Fair began to be published in our local newspaper or aired over our local radio station. My young sons looked forward to this annual event. We would tour the exhibit buildings and get excited if we recognized the name of a blue-ribbon winner.
Baked goods, floral arrangements, and varieties of needlework graced the display tables. Then we would tour the animal pens. Some 4-H members raised lambs, or piglets, or even calves. Music groups would provide entertainment and give us an opportunity to rest our weary legs. Sons who played the guitar dreamed of days when they might be the ones up on the stage.
One of the competitions we often enjoyed watching was the ox pull. An ox would be hitched up to the weight, tug away at it, and nary move it a notch. A second ox would then join the first. Together, the two of them might nudge the weight a wee bit. But then, the team manager would come out and place a yoke on the two oxen, thus enabling them to pull in tandem with each other. Soon the weight would be moving a hefty length across the field. What one could not do alone, or two out of sync with each other could not accomplish, became an achievable task with the aid of the yoke.
As I watched this competition continue, I was reminded of the Scripture passage from the Gospel of Matthew: “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.” I had often pondered how taking on the yoke of another could be easy or light. It boggled my mind to comprehend how taking on a weight of any kind could possibly provide rest.
As I observed the ox teams at their tasks, I gradually came to understand that the yoke was not another weight to bear. It was a means of sharing the load already being carried. When God invites us to take on his yoke, he is not asking us to bear a greater burden. He is stepping beside us and lifting some of that heavy weight from our shoulders and bearing it along with us.
In this season of COVID-19, we are all bearing extra burdens. As we wear our masks and continue to wash our hands, let us consider God’s invitation to accept the yoke that can grant us some rest along life’s journey.