About fourteen years ago in a town called Puerto Escondido, Mexico, a seasoned Bible translator sat a group of young language interns down and told us a story that I will never forget. Our linguistic internships were drawing to a close, and he was one of the last translators we would hear from. At that point in my life, I was anguishing over what my next step should be. I had just graduated from Bible college. Though raised on a mission field, my parents had moved back to the States and I did not know where to go or what to do. I did not know where I fit or belonged. My four years of college in America had made it very clear to me that this was not home, but Peru was not home either. And although I loved the great commission and loved language, my internship had actually shown me that translation was not in the cards for me. I knew that I wanted to do God’s will for me, but had no idea what that was. I had it in my head that His will was a super specific thing, and that life would be so miserable if I somehow missed it.
And so I sat there, at the end of an internship, about to come back to the States as an adult, out of college, not knowing where to go, what to do, or even who I was. I felt like I was suffocating under the weight of the future.
I was in that head space when this translator began to talk. He read to us from the gospel of Matthew. “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt. 11:28-30.
After reading those words, he paused and told us that he had been working on translating that particular passage into an indigenous language in his village when he and his language helpers came to a standstill over a word that did not exist in their language. It was the word “easy.” In their language there was no word to express the concept of easy. Imagine that. But they needed to find something that could convey the same meaning to the people, in spite of not having the actual word. They prayed about it, talked about it, and in time, an idea came to him. Though his people group was not familiar with the term easy, they were very familiar with a yoke and with beasts of burden. They went and spoke to a man who worked with yokes and asked him what would make a particular yoke work efficiently, or be less difficult/hard for the animal. The man responded that you have to know the shape of their shoulders. You make a yoke that fits the shape of their shoulders.
They went back and translated that passage. It reads like this: “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. For I know the shape of your shoulders and my burden is light.”
In that stuffy little room in Puerto Escondido, that man spoke life over us. He told us that God knows the shape of our shoulders. He told us that we did not need to be anxious about “what if we miss God’s perfect will.” “You are not big enough or important enough to thwart God’s will for your life. Just rest.” I cannot tell you how those words settled into my soul. I still carry them today.
I serve a God who knows the shape of my shoulders. He knows my past, every complicated part. He knows my future. He understands every move of my heart, and He loves me.
God is not a cruel taskmaster, beating us to get more work out of us. He is not a mean God who hides His will and then punishes us for missing it. He is kind. He is good. I have a little plaque in my kitchen that says “Find rest , Oh my soul, in God alone.” Because I forget that. I forget that He said He is gentle. I forget that He gives rest. I forget that His burden is light.
I needed to hear that so many years ago, and I needed to hear it again today. Maybe someone else did, too. “He knows the shape of your shoulders.” Come to Him, you who are weary and burdened, and He will give you rest.
*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here: The Gospel