I'm writing this on the third Sunday of Trinity in year A, when the gospel from Matthew 11 includes our Lord's beautiful invitation: 'Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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 my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ The temptation for readers and preachers alike is to concentrate on those words and to set aside the rest of what Jesus is saying in the passage. Especially because the rest of the passage is not exactly comfortable reading.
What do we make of these verses from earlier in chapter 11? 'At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.'
Many of us like to think of ourselves as having some level of wisdom and intelligence. The experience of life combined with education enables most of us to feel that we are equipped to deal with what life throws at us. So the potential implication of this passage becomes personal. We can't dismiss it - Jesus didn't mean me. Am I somehow an exception to this rule, even though there may be some small amount of wisdom and intelligence within me? And why exclude the wise anyway? Surely wisdom points us to God? Indeed, the Old Testament defines wisdom as coming from God. So what is going on here?
The trouble with being a bit grown up, a bit wise, a bit intelligent, is that we do tend to expect to manage things for ourselves. We expect to be able to deal with whatever life throws at us for ourselves, especially if we've done it before, or seen enough of life to feel we know how this or that scenario works. We expect to solve our own problems and to make our own decisions.
Compare that learned behaviour with an infant, one to whom God reveals the things of God. An infant is dependent on his or her parents. She does not make decisions deeper than which toy to play with now. Her life is built on trust, trust that the adults who care for her will make the best decisions for her,protect her, bring her always to a place of safety and of love. Thus is the model for our relationship with God. God asks us to trust Him completely, as an infant does. Proverbs 3:5 tells us to trust God with all our hearts and not to try and use our own wisdom to get through a situation. Jesus here is telling us the same thing.
The sad bit is that, since God reveals Godself to infants, this means that every one of us has been shown the way of God. We knew it as infants in the days when we lived in total trust and dependence. But as we grew up, and learned how to be grown ups in the world, we so often lose sight of the trusting relationship we once knew with God. We forget to rely on God and instead rely on ourselves. We even do it in church. We assume we know the best way to do things, that we know how it should be (how it has always been). When things get difficult we try to deal with them ourselves. Instead of crying out to God and trusting God, as a child does a parent, we expect to sort things out ourselves.
The result is that some of the time we get things wrong. And even when we get them right, the way is harder than it needs to be, more stressful, more tiring.
If only we relied on God more, saw things more often his way instead of our way! Then our lives would be calmer and more peaceful, our hearts stiller and centred on God instead of on our fears and stresses and worries. So the words of comfort Jesus offered make most sense when we read them in the context of the earlier words we'd prefer not to read. We must set aside our own wisdom and understanding, receive and trust God in the way that an infant does. If we can do that, if we can let go and really trust and rely on God, then we will be sharing the yoke of our work with Him. Instead of feeling stress and anxiety, we will be able to rest, knowing that Jesus carries the load and makes it easy for us.
So that's my challenge this week, to live less in my own wisdom and more in complete trust of God. Dare you risk not being a grown up, but joining me in the life of an infant?