Remove the yoke
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. ~ Isaiah 58:9b-14
National Gallery of Art: Rose Campbell-Gerke
There was a difficult relationship I had years ago. It started out as friendship. We hung out together, we laughed together.
And then one day, she stopped talking to me. Now, I'm not going to claim total innocence. I know I said something in the heat of the moment I shouldn't have. I tried to make things right and apologize, but she wouldn't forgive me. Or if she did, I didn't know about it because she remained distant. I was shut out. On the outside looking in.
So rather than continue to seek reconciliation, I dug my heels in and place the blame on her for what went wrong in our relationship.
For a long time though, I remained bitter. I held on to the anger I had toward her, feeling the slight acutely everytime her name came up.
And when her name came up, my bitterness often seeped through to the person I was with.
In short, my anger became a yoke around my neck, and my finger loved pointing out the perceived evil I'd faced.
Holding on to anger - not forgiving - is like that. It imprisons us. It keeps us in darkness. Letting go of it just lightens everything!
Isaiah tells of other ways to remove the yoke - satisfying the needs of others, especially those in need.
It took me a while to figure that all out. When I moved from my frustration and hurt at how I believed I'd been treated, and focused instead on others - their needs, their hopes, there pain - my pain went away. My hurt went away.
The yoke loosened.
Turn my heart outward, Lord. Teach me to forgive, to love, and to seek the best in and for others. Amen