Monday, February 2, 2015

Come to Me, All Who Labor and are Heavy Laden...

Today, I'm tired. Like the kind of tired where I can't get enough coffee in me (trust me, I've tried). The kind of tired where I legitimately have bags under my eyes (the concealer wore off hours ago). The kind of tired where I crashed on my couch when I went home for lunch. Actually, the fact that I went home for lunch speaks to how tired I am; especially because today I also feel heavy laden, as if every time I cross off something on my to-do list, at least 5 things get added. A busy couple of weeks at the ministry (combined with company in town for the weekend) have left me struggling a bit to get through it all.

So why am I taking the time to write this blog? Surely I have important things to be doing! Well, yes, many things are on my to-do list. But somehow, I have a feeling it will all get done when it needs to get done. Somehow, in the midst of this crazy day/week/month, I encountered the Lord in an unexpected way, and I couldn't help but share it with anyone who takes the time to read this blog.

My story of this unexpected encounter actually begins about a month ago, when I was discussing my prayer life with my Spiritual Director. I was explaining to him that I tend to fall into the same vacation trap as all of my students. You know the one - prayer is going awesome when you are living your normal daily schedule, but as soon as that gets interrupted your prayer habits go out the window as well! Prayer at home with my family is just a little different than it is when I spend 10-14 hours a day actually AT the Church, but I probably shouldn't be too surprised by that. We discussed briefly how I could build in prayer habits that would be easier to travel with me; nothing too intense, just something practical.

So I put my Bible on our dining room table; luckily, my roommates haven't complained. Actually, I'm pretty lucky that they haven't complained about the fact that I also have books lying on almost every surface of our apartment. They realized how nerdy I was a long time ago, and they just deal with it. So, with my Bible on our table, I began a morning routine of getting up about 15 minutes earlier and reading from the Gospels as I eat breakfast. Only today my morning was slightly different, so I read when I went home for lunch. It was so much easier to do when my Bible was just lying there on the table! (#forminghabits)

I'm currently reading through the Gospel of Matthew, and today I was in chapter 11, which ends with those comforting words of Christ:

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

I couldn't tell you how many times I've read that passage. How many times I've grappled with it ("Jesus, your yoke feels awfully difficult to me..."), yearned for that rest, or been beautifully consoled by it. But somehow I've always missed the context of these words. Always. Today, however, I caught it. I realized that in this passage Jesus doesn't suddenly turn to some really tired person and says, "Come to me and sleep." The words aren't spoken in a moment of compassion, or even teaching. Look them up and take note - they are spoken in the context of prayer and intimacy with his Heavenly Father. 

Let's look at the three preceding verses a little more closely:

"At that time Jesus declared, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

Here's the thing - there is no break between these passages, though we often treat them as entirely different stories. It doesn't say, "the next day, Jesus spoke to his disciples..." In most translations, the quotation marks don't even close until the end of verse 30. That means this is the same prayer. It means that when Jesus says to his Father "no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him," and then goes on to speak of the heavy laden laborer, he is telling his Father that those are the people he chooses. Did you catch that? In a moment of great intimacy with his Father, Jesus prays for those who labor to be brought to him

Jesus doesn't just have compassion on the tired and broken down. It's much more beautiful than that. Jesus yearns for those who labor. He prays for them. And not just that they would be comforted, not just that they would take on his yoke. In fact, the heavy ladened are the people Jesus most deeply desires to reveal his Father to

Listen, I get it. Sometimes the Christian Life seems difficult. Sometimes it feels like the yoke is hard, and the burden heavy, and we just can't seem to get the rest we need to deal with all the daily struggles. But when I read that oh so familiar passage today, I was immediately consoled by the prayer of Christ's own heart. Jesus was calling me to his Father. It was me he was praying for, yearning for, preparing an easy yoke for. And I promise you that as he sits at the right hand of his Father, Christ's prayer hasn't changed. So go to him, you who labor and are heavy laden, and experience the rest that Christ offers; let him reveal his Father to you.

p.s. Last night, I fell asleep at a Super Bowl party. I just thought I would add that to the list to prove how tired I am. I'm a pretty social being, but my friend has a really comfy couch that just eats you and begs you to fall asleep, so I couldn't help it. But go Patriots! I'm American, so I feel like my team won.

Jodi Phillips is a Campus Minister at St. Mary's Catholic Campus Ministry. Though she misses the cold and snow of Nebraska (also known as "The Good Life"), she counts herself incredibly blessed to be serving the students of Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, TX. Jodi loves to sing and dance and laugh, and looks for any opportunity to dress up and celebrate (especially if it includes a costume). Stop by the ministry if you want to hang out, or contact her at

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