Devotion Wednesday May 13
This week’s collect is a helpful reminder that Cranmer was convinced that daily bible reading was the key to growth in godliness, since the Holy Spirit worked through God’s Word to transform us from the inside out. We have seen how it worked in the life of Queen Katherine Parr. How about us?
The Bible tells us that apart from God we aren’t whole. A piece of us is missing. An important piece. In fact, the crucial piece. The piece that seems to make sense of everything. The piece that makes sense of us. The piece that gives us a sense of worth that won’t go away. The piece that gives peace. We’re missing that piece. That’s what the Bible tells us, but we already know it.
We know it, deep down inside, in a place where we don’t like to go and never want to stay too long. We know that we know no peace on our own. We have passions that make us feel alive. But we know that they also too often take us to places we wish we had never been. We have accomplishments, but in achieving them, we know that we are too many times left feeling strangely hollow, unsatisfied, even empty. We have relationships, but we know that in the very midst of them, when it really counts, when we really need someone to stand with us, too often we feel only misunderstood and alone. Trapped by our own choices, penned in by circumstances now beyond our control, we can never seem to outrun this unease deep down inside.
Yet, in the midst of all our fears and failures, deeds and dreams, when the Bible is read, God himself stoops down to make his presence felt. He whispers to our heart, ‘I am here with you’. He holds our hand, even as he uses the Bible to hold up a mirror so we can see ourselves.
And in that moment, we see what we are really running from. We see the yoke we bear, a yoke bulky and rough, with edges and angles and splinters that does not easily conform to the contour of our shoulders, its poorly crafted design poking and pinching, rubbing and cutting, bruising and branding our back. Yet, this ill-fitting yoke is the one we have fitted for ourselves.
How? Through countless attempts to self-medicate our inner woundedness with ultimately empty things like achievement, pleasure or just the mindless numbness that comes from drinking or drugs or just being too busy to think about the meaning of our lives. We have harnessed ourselves to these false hopes, and in the process, our poor choices have tied us to a trail of repeated disappointments, broken relationships and soul-piercing regrets. We hate our failings. Yet, we seem forever yoked to all things about our life, and indeed, about ourselves, that cause us not to like ourselves.
Yes, this is what we are really running from. Our own actual rejection of ourselves. Since we don’t fully love ourselves as we are, how could we ever think God would? This deep, abiding fear that we aren’t really good enough to be loved, that’s what’s driving us away from God and our true selves in God. The hamster wheel of approval-earning always keeps the truth of God’s love for us at least an arm-length away, even when it’s religious approval-earning.
That’s why we need to hear, day after day, over and over again, the old, old story. Love can’t be earned. If it’s earned, it’s not love. Through his Word, Jesus comes to woo us to exchange our yoke for his, our failed attempts at self-medicating for his sure and certain healing. Only then can we experience the tailored-made yoke he has designed for us. Only then do we find that inner harmony between his will for our lives and our own inner longings.
The coronavirus has created unprecedented challenges for and changes to our lives, exposing with fresh force where our old yokes still chafe. Looking for relief, let’s us ask God to renew his perfect yoke for us by praying Cranmer’s Collect.
1552 Readings and Collect appointed for the Fourth Sunday after Easter. Epistle: James 1:17-21. Gospel: John 16:5-14. Almighty God, which doest make the minds of all faithful men to be of one will; grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing, which thou commandest, and desire, that which thou doest promise; that among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, whereas true joys are to be found; through Christ our Lorde. Amen.