Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Unequally Yoked, Part 2

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? ~ 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, NKJV)
In my last post, I spoke a little about my life as the spouse of a non-believer and ended with the question, ‘what exactly does being unequally yoked mean?’

Well, first of all, after searching some sites, I came to learn that while this Scripture verse is usually brought up to describe a marriage between a believer and a non-believer in Christ, it really is not referring to marriage at all. Paul was actually telling his audience in Corinth that they were to refrain from having anything to do with those who practiced paganism or any kind of ‘dark works.’ Marriage is not mentioned in this particular piece of Scripture; nonetheless, it certainly can pertain to it.

I searched around a bit more and came up with these definitions: The phrase "unequally yoked together" translates from only one Greek word, heterozugeo, which is a compound word that means, "to yoke up differently; to associate discordantly; to unequally yoke together." This phrase is used only one time in the Bible…here in 2 Corinthians. Also, the word "yoke" means a coupling, as when two oxen are coupled together by a pulling beam to plow a field or to pull a wagon. The yoke itself is actually a crossbar with two U-shaped pieces that encircle the necks of a pair of oxen or other draft animals working together.

As I read this, I was hit right between the eyes with two very key words....did you catch them? Working Together. Whoa. When you find yourself coupled with another whose beliefs, visions, desires, dreams, etc., do not line up with your own, especially in a marriage relationship, working together is no longer a feasible activity. Doesn’t matter if it’s two animals or two human is struggling to go one way, one is struggling to go another and both wind up going nowhere.

There’s pain. There’s conflict. There’s anger. There’s frustration. There’s resentment. There’s no unity. These are pretty fair descriptions of how my marriage and my home life have been for all of these years. There is certainly no fun or comfort to be found when you are so closely and tightly connected to someone with whom you can have no agreement as to which direction to take on life’s pathways. The greatest joy in my life is Jesus, and I cannot share that joy with the one with whom I share my life. And to explain how adversely it's affected our son and our daughter would have to be explained in several separate blog posts.  It’s no wonder I can often become discouraged, depressed, in pain and exhausted emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Earlier this year, I attended my church’s annual women’s retreat. I was intrigued to find out that one of the breakout sessions was for women who are ‘spiritually single’ and I decided to check it out. I found it somewhat odd and almost humorous when the woman who was the facilitator for this session told the group of us that God had 'called' us to this life experience. Really?? Called?? Funny, I don’t feel called, but this idea is something I continue to ponder.

Let me say right here that there are days when I think I will scream and lose my mind if I hear one more person remind me of what it says in Isaiah 54:5: For your Maker is your Husband--the Lord of hosts is His name--and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth He is called.

And then there are other days when I can’t seem to turn the pages of my Bible fast enough to get to that section of Scripture to see it in black and white and read it for myself in the hopes of finding comfort by those words of promise.

So…where does this leave me at this point? Where’s the hope? Where’s the encouragement? Am I to forever remain being strangled by this yoke?

I’ve had many people, non-believers and followers of Christ alike, who have told me to remove that spiritually lopsided yoke, RUN like Carl Lewis and never look back. But my Jesus tells me of a different way, a better way. His way. And it’s found in Matthew 11:28-30. My favorite translation is from the Amplified Bible and in it, Jesus says:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good--not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.”

I love that. Yes, I CAN remove that unequal yoke, replacing it with Jesus’ yoke, His good, wholesome, comfortable, gracious and pleasant yoke. And if I’m going to run anywhere, it should be straight to Jesus and move along the path that He directs me to walk, along with Himself. But how does this all work and what does it mean?

I believe the answer lies in verse 29: “Take My yoke upon you.” The majority of the various translations I checked use the verb ‘take.’ It’s a word that requires action, and it’s an action on MY part. Jesus offers His yoke to me, but I have to make the choice to remove my current yoke, step forward, take His yoke from Him and place myself underneath it. To me, this means I have to stop looking to my husband for validation and relying on him to give to me the joy, peace, rest, comfort, guidance, mercy, grace, forgiveness and ultimately, the LOVE I so desperately seek. I need to stop my whining, complaining and struggling, and accept that at this time, this is just how my life is going to be. Believe me, this isn’t easy to do. But I have to learn to stop my obsessive need to have my spouse satisfy me in all areas, take my constant focus off him as my all in all and instead, turn to the One Who IS my all in all, Jesus Christ, trusting in the things about Him I have come to know to be true:

∙ that His yoke is easy and His burden is light

∙ that He who began a good work in me (and I believe, in my husband and our children)will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

∙ that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose

∙ that I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (meaning the return of Christ)

∙ that if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him, for the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife....otherwise their children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy

∙ that love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails
So it’s a day by day, moment by moment taking off and laying down of such a heavy, mismatched yoke and replacing it with the lighter one that Jesus lovingly offers me. And I’m well aware that much of the time, the only real tried and true love I’m GOING to experience is the love of Jesus. But the fact is, I AM loved. Loved with an everlasting, unconditional, unfailing love, as long as I stay yoked together with my precious Jesus.

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us, oh! ~ How He Loves, by David Crowder Band

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