By Claire Alexander
Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me . . . For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NASB.
We live on a horse farm in Ontario, where for twenty-five years our son has managed the seasonal ploughing, seeding, hay baling, and harvesting, as well as the year-round caring for horses boarded here, until his brain hemorrhage nineteen months ago. Even nowadays, where horses are used for pleasure, and not for work, a farmer has to know how to put them together in different fields. He even yields to a hen-pecking order of seniority in feeding them, as horses soon let you know if relationships don’t work.
When a new horse comes to stay, the females (mares) are put into one field, with “fixed” males or geldings in another. A stallion bows to no one, and is separate, with the weanlings and younger horses also finding their niche. A new boarder is watched, and is moved to a different group if kicking and biting ensues.
In my husband’s childhood, his father logged in the bush, using two horses or more in a team, to drag out the heavy trunks. No one could afford a horse merely for pleasure. Settlers of an earlier generation also used oxen matched under a yoke, instead of horses, to break new ground, as we remember from Little House on the Prairie.
When I read the blog “Peace Chaser,” I embedded some of these images in the verse Jesus gave, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me.” I see an element of learning here, not so much from the commands of a human boss, but from the example of a partner alongside. If Jesus says, “Learn of (or from) Me,” we can envision a double wooden yoke, and not a single one. The faithful, mature, reliable draft horse or ox stands still under one side of the doubletree or yoke, while the new, impulsive, willful partner is harnessed.
In Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder tells the boyhood story of the one she will later marry. The father of Almanzo Wilder teaches him on his ninth birthday to fit his young calves into a double wooden yoke. He has to scrape it smooth with broken glass, so nothing rubs their soft necks.
He doesn’t have the advantage of a mature ox to train a young one. He has to find a way to train his calves once they are yoked together. They learn to turn left with “Gee!” and right with “Haw!” As the boy walks in front of them with a pocket full of carrots, they learn “Giddap!” – and “Whoa!” stops them, to get one to eat.
Though one calf individually may stomp, jerk, tug, dig in its hoofs, or bellow, the effort does not result in independence. And even Almanzo has to learn not to work them too long at first, in case they become sullen.
Perhaps I can learn that God’s peace comes when I, too, recognize the principle of being in harness together – when I listen with him, turn with him, pull with him, or stop with him. Obeying begins simply with learning to trust the partner who is sharing the load.
In quietness and trust is your strength . . . your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30: 15, 20, 21 NASB.