I thought the ‘the stretch’ was a seasonal thing, much like the discomfort you feel when you walk around in a new pair of shoes. I thought God would only stretch me a few times over the course of my life, but I was wrong. Welcome to the stretch life. If you’re reading this and feeling it, don’t worry, you are in good company.
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At times the stretch life can feel extra tight, slightly restrictive, and weighty. It’s in those moments that I refer to a conversation I had with Joel, back to when I had just started travelling with United. He pulled me aside and shared Matthew 11:28-30, which changed my whole perspective on how to do this God-life. We had been discussing the weight of what we do as a creative team; not just in the seen but in all areas – whether we choose to hold what we do with reverend hands or not. Leading people to Jesus is an immense responsibility and it’s all that we do. There is weight that comes when being entrusted with the platform, but Joel reminded me of Jesus’ words, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). In the fullness of life, this has been truth that I’ve come to realign myself with again and again. In the Message translation, Eugene Peterson describes it like this:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly”(Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).
I always let out a sigh of relief when I read that first part. We are called to walk and work with Him. The very definition of “yoke” is:
(noun): a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plough or cart they are to pull;
(verb): to cause (two people or things) to be joined in a close relationship.
The yoke allows the heavy lifting to spread between two companions. And because our companion is our loving Saviour, when we carry it the right way — in partnership with Him — our burden is actually light. I also find comfort in knowing that it is Hisyoke and His burden. We don’t actually do the heavy-lifting or the orchestrating. What we are called to be is faithful and diligent — to trust, to stay and to work with what He has placed in our hands and hearts.
To stay and trust in the stretch can be harder than we imagine. We can get so preoccupied with progressing that we forget that our job is to quiet ourselves before Him, surrender and submit to the process.
The key for me in all of this has been to keep company with Him, for in His company I learn “to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:30). I have to admit, at times, I might get off track and lose focus of that. But His sovereignty and kindness overwhelms me. God is never off track nor does He ever leave us. We might walk a bit slower than we like sometimes (depending on what we’re learning and the part of the stretch we’re in), but we need to know, this is okay! If you feel like you’re in a slower-paced walk right now, but you’re walking with Him and learning His way, then take heart. Stay in the stretch. You’re doing better than you think you are.
I’ve discovered that when we give our “yes” to Jesus and say we’re all in, we are choosing to do life on His terms. Saying “yes” to the God-life and the God-thing actually requires our everything, fully surrendered, no matter the cost, what it looks like or where we end up.
The temptation to lift the heaviness of duty on our own is so easy, until we feel like we’re drowning — off balance — and it’s all a bit too much. But I’ll say it again. We aren’t meant to do this alone. God calls us to walk and work with Him — at His pace, in His perfect timing, in the direction and path He has set. We must come alongside Him. Let’s watch how He does it, learn the unforced rhythms of grace, and in turn, we will realign our hearts with His.
To hear more from Taya about life on the road, the new ‘People’ album, and lots of other fun tips, watch this episode of the Hillsong Creative Podcast with Taya and JD.