Some of my favorite books to read when I was a kid was the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And my favorite of the Little House books was Farmer Boy, because it was about a boy growing up on a farm—Almanzo, Laura’s future husband.
Since I lived on a farm, I enjoyed reading about how a farm worked back in the 1800’s. One chapter described how Almanzo broke his calves to work in a yoke.
So Almanzo went to the barn and called the little calves [named Star and Bright] out into the frosty air. He fitted the little yoke over their necks and he held up the bows and put the bow-pins in, and tied a rope around Star’s small nubs of horns. He did this all by himself.
All that morning he backed, little by little, around the barnyard, shouting, “Giddap!” and then, “Whoa!” Star and Bright came eagerly when he yelled, “Giddap!” and they stopped when he said, “Whoa!” and licked up the pieces of carrot from his woolly mittens…
Now he had to teach them to turn to the left when he shouted, “Haw!” and to turn to the right when he shouted “Gee!” [So he and his father made a bull whip] Every Saturday morning he spent in the barnyard, teaching Star and Bright. He never whipped them; he only cracked the whip.
He knew you could never teach an animal anything if you struck it, or even shouted at it angrily. He must always be gentle, and quiet, and patient, even when they made mistakes. Star and Bright must like him and trust him and know he would never hurt them, for if they were once afraid of him they would never be good, willing, hard-working oxen.
Now they always obeyed him when he shouted, “Giddap!” and “Whoa!” So he did not stand in front of them any longer. He stood at Star’s left side. Star was next to him, so Star was the nigh ox. Bright was on the other side of Star, so Bright was the off ox.
Almanzo shouted, “Gee!” and cracked the whip with all his might, close beside Star’s head. Star dodged to get away from it, and that turned both calves to the right. Then Almanzo said, “Giddap!” and let them walk a little way, quietly. Then he made the whip-lash curl in the air and crack loudly, on the other side of Bright, and with the crack he yelled, “Haw!” Bright swerved away from the whip, and that turned both calves to the left.
Sometimes they jumped and started to run. Then Almanzo said, “Whoa!” in a deep, solemn voice like Father’s. And if they didn’t stop, he ran after them and headed them off. When that happened, he had to make them practice “Giddap!” and “Whoa!” again, for a long time. He had to be very patient. (Wilder, 96-100)
Turn to Matthew 11. Almanzo is a fine illustration of how I imagine Jesus to be with those who take his yoke. He describes himself as a gentle and patient master like Almanzo was.
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)
This is an invitation for everyone to come to Jesus, and first, we learn that…