I had read that passage from the Bible I don’t know how many times. I memorized it years ago, and it has often appeared on these pages. “Come to Me [Jesus], all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”1 Then I read something that helped me see those verses in a new light.
The evening of December 9, 1914, an explosion set fire to a large scientific laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. At least ten buildings were destroyed, along with years of research and development. Property loss alone was estimated at $7 million ($148 million in today’s dollars). “There go all our mistakes,” the laboratory’s founder and CEO said as he watched the blaze. “Although I am 67 years old,” he told a New York Times reporter who was at the scene, “I’ll start all over again tomorrow.” The next morning’s newspaper included a notice that all 7,000 of the lab’s employees were to report for work immediately, to begin rebuilding. A disaster of lesser proportions would have demoralized just about anyone else, but years of trial and error had conditioned Thomas Edison to see disasters as opportunities.
The woman’s life turned on four words, spoken by a stranger. “If you only knew.” She was a mess by anyone’s standards—married five times and now living with another man—but in one respect she was like anyone else. Maybe that’s what had driven her to go from man to man like some people change jobs or locations or cars. She wanted more. Love, security, acceptance, fulfillment, peace of mind. She wanted to be happy. She wanted to be whole.
If she only knew what?
Some unlikely people have remarkable insight. I’m thinking specifically of the Roman army officer who begged Jesus to heal his servant. “I am not worthy that You should come under my roof,” the centurion told Jesus, “but only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”—And the centurion got what he asked for: his servant was healed immediately, without Jesus having to go and see to it personally.1
Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s great faith, and I’m amazed at his understanding. He realized something that few others do: God delegates.
Once there was a rich man who had two sons whom he loved dearly and showered with good things. When his sons were grown, he gave them the deeds to houses he had put in their names the day they were born. Besides being amazingly well designed and constructed, the two houses had another thing in common: they needed regular upkeep. One son kept on top of repairs and even made a few improvements, but the other son let his house go to rack and ruin. Which do you think could expect more good things from his father?—Yes, the one who showed gratitude by taking care of his gift.
That’s not one of the parables Jesus told, but I think it could have been. (He would have told it better, of course.) Or maybe it would have gone like this:
One indelible memory from my childhood is of a boy about my age walking on crutches. Each time he took a step with his right foot, his left leg swung limply a few inches off the ground. He wore mismatched brown leather shoes, and the left was noticeably smaller than the right. “Polio,” my mother explained when the boy was out of earshot. “His short leg has stopped growing.” “Will it ever catch up?” I asked. “No,” she said, “the damage is permanent.” I imagined how that boy must have felt, knowing that his body would never be quite whole.
If you use the Internet, you know what a quick and easy source of information it can be. Instead of trekking to a library to pore over stacks of books and other printed material to locate something, you can find what you need right from home or work by simply using an Internet search engine, typing a few key words, and clicking “search.” Instantly, links to a multitude of websites related to whatever it is you’re looking for appear on your computer screen. Admittedly it is hit and miss, and you may still need to skim quite a bit of material to find the specifics you’re looking for—like you used to have to do with those stacks of books—but the Internet puts a world of information at your fingertips.
Christmas is different things to different people.
For some it’s a time to enjoy family and friends, a time to love and be loved; for others it’s the loneliest time of the year.
For some it’s the warmth and security of hearth and home; for others it’s a stark reminder of all they don’t have and maybe never will.
For some people it’s the moneymaking opportunity of the year; for others it’s a seemingly inescapable financial disaster—a sinkhole of overspending that will take them months to climb out of.