A yoke of my own making
A cup of tea had cooled in my hand, and I felt a sense of achievement sitting in my armchair reading my devotion for the day. I am setting up my day for success! Dang, I am nailing this Christian gig! Later on, while driving to work, a podcast on biblical history was playing and again, I felt that pang of accomplishment. I am so good at learning. God must be pretty chuffed with me right now. Before the lunch bell, I spoke to a student about their behaviour, sending them off with a prayer and a talk about respect and trust. Wow, good thing I’m such a patient and devout Christian teacher.
What was wrong here? I was walking the Christian walk and growing in my faith through personal development…right? If you cringe at my inner thoughts as I do now, it’s clear that I had taken good and righteous things and had turned them into my own machinations for holiness.
My husband would say otherwise (something about ‘selective hearing’?) but I am an auditory learner. Music and lyrics can capture my imagination and convict me like nothing else. My wildly talented friend Eliza King is a singer-songwriter, and she stewards this gift so beautifully. Her words occupy a nook in my heart, and I can trust her music to challenge and bolster me when I need it.
Here are a few excerpts taken from the full song ‘Feel Holy’:
I have always known You, as long ago as I remember
Knew you at the altar in my room
Now I am too late learning, that right down to the wick I’m burning
I’m a puppet tangled in my own religious strings
Of all the little things I do when I wanna feel holy
When I wanna feel whole
All the little things I say, and I do
While my heart stays just as far from You
Why do I do what I hate, with a heart that’s
Far away, far away, far away?…
Singin’ on a Sunday is hardly what You’re asking of me
Where’s the truth, where’s the Spirit in what I bring?…
If it’s just another thing I do when I wanna feel holy
When I wanna feel whole…
In 5 minutes and 30 seconds, she had concisely and perfectly detailed what was happening before I could even admit it to myself.
Why did I do what I hated? In my shallow grab for holiness, there was no authenticity in my faith, there was no zeal. How many times had I sung loudly during worship or served in church when my heart wasn’t actually in it? How many times had I put myself in a self-made spiritual pretzel doing those ‘little things’ thinking it made me holy? In justifying my salvation and holiness because of my good works, I had crudely fashioned a yoke of my own making, heavy and difficult.
Where’s the truth and the spirit in what I bring?
Like a child seeking the approval of an apathetic and distant parent, I was exhausted. A puppet tangled in my own religious strings – it was burning me out. But God’s holy grace does not come with terms and conditions.
In Acts 15, when a dispute broke out over conditions for receiving God’s grace and Holy Spirit, Peter reminded the early church that God did not discriminate between Jew or Gentile, he “showed that he accepted them [Gentiles] by giving the Holy Spirit to them”, “purified their hearts by faith” and that it was “through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” He admonished the yoke of circumcision that the Jewish people were unfairly placing on the Gentiles as conditions for entry into God’s family.
When we want to feel holy, when we want to feel whole, where do we go? What extra obligations, pre-requisites and burdens are we placing on ourselves or others? In being a “slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:25), we relinquish God’s grace and Jesus’ easy yoke.
As Eliza so beautifully sings in the last verse of her song may we be free from our self-made and inadequate holiness and look to the one whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.
Just one glimpse at the face of God
Just one sip from the Spirit’s cup
Just the faintest ember from the fire’s holy glow
To know You’re the hunger and the bread my hunger longs to know.
You can listen to Eliza King’s song ‘Feel Holy’ wherever you get your music. Check out her website https://www.elizakingmusic.com/ for more!