I know I’m not alone in needing to drop a little weight. Not only will it make me healthier, but it’ll make me feel better and enjoy my life more. Voices in various media make all kinds of promises for easy ways to drop this weight. But in my core (which needs the most exercise) I know the answer: walking…with Jesus. See, the weight I’m talking about dropping is not excess fat and flab. This weight comes from fear and judgment and all that is bound up with them. And yes, the culture offers all kinds of quick fixes. And yes, I’m finding that Jesus offers the only “program” that truly takes the weight off.
I suppose what I really want from Jesus is to be free from fear, to walk in the freedom that can only come from an assured faith that he is walking with me. This faith in the constant presence of the Master (which, after all, he promised in Mt. 28) is a peace and a pace, a joyful stride through day-by-day life that comes from knowing that there is no obstacle I will meet that he can’t overcome, no question I will ask that he can’t answer, no path I will encounter that leads to better destinations, no master more deserving of my submission and allegiance.
This freedom does not come from a lack of obstacles or questions or other paths or masters. This freedom cannot even depend on obstacles being removed or questions being answered or the way of Jesus being fun or easy. It is the result of a choice—a daily choice to enter into the yoke of Jesus, to open myself fully to his way of considering the world and walking in it. It comes from fixedness on the path of the Master and his kingdom way.
Dropping the Weight
Obstacles must be seen, not as insurmountable forces in a godless wasteland, but as part of the journey on the way of Jesus. Questions must be asked, not in a vacuum of worldly foolishness, but in the infinitely rich context of the truth of Jesus. Paths and masters must not be considered for their potential ease or instant gratification, but in the eternal light of the life Jesus promises.
Each day, each moment, the Master stands among us. This risen Jesus, alive forevermore—this ascended Jesus, King over heaven and earth, everywhere present—stands with us. This Good Shepherd looks at us with compassion, harassed and helpless and wayward as we are. And so, this Jesus, the Way and the Truth and the Life, invites us to be yoked with him, to walk in his way and truth and life.
This is freedom: to lay down the weight of judgment. We judge others, but we’re really judging ourselves. Wrapped up in this judgment are comparisons and covetousness and do-it-yourself, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, climb-the-ladder, all-American self-righteousness. All of this is rooted in fear, fear that we will not be enough. And the hard, liberating truth is, we won’t. We will never be enough. So this is what we lay down.
Leave All Else Behind
But freedom is not this laying down alone. True freedom is to leave behind the weight of judgment and fear and to step into the gentle yoke of Jesus. His pace and his path are different from those of others, all others. So others must willfully be cut off and left behind through training that helps to focus one’s entire life—heart, mind, strength, and soul—on Jesus. But to be sure, this is the only way.
Jesus is demanding. We don’t like to talk about that. He may be gentle and humble in heart, but he doesn’t offer shortcuts. Over and over he is confronting people with the choice to leave all else and walk with him, or not. There is no “attend to other business first” or “just sell some of your possessions” or “keep fishing for fish and the random person will fall in” or “take up your cross except when it hurts or people think you’re foolish or others’ lives seem better than yours” or “really, you’d have more pleasure and fame and influence if you’d just drop that pesky cross.”
That’s the confounding paradox (one of many, I guess) of the way of Jesus: true freedom comes only from being completely, utterly, inextricably bound to Jesus as lord and master…there can be no others, including the self. Sound severe? Well like Dylan sang, “It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” We all have a master. Only one is the Prince of the peace I’m seeking. Only one is the true Love that drives out all fear.
So, amidst the noise of every preoccupation and competing agenda, Jesus says, “Follow me.” No matter how worthy or shiny or self-actualizing the competing pursuit—Follow me. And no matter how hurt or confused or afraid we are—Follow me. All who are weary and burdened, lay it down and walk with me. You will find rest for your souls.