Is he a good "Yoke-Sharer"?


By Jess Dager

It’s SPRING! It’s a few weeks past Valentine’s Day! It’s relationship time on campuses all over the world! 

Supporting women in relationships is one of the joys of being on the campus. How many meetings have you had in the last few weeks where a girl has spilled the beans about a crush, a date, a deepening friendship, or an impending proposal? 

I just LOVE love, and I can get caught up right along with them in the momentum of a good romance. Here’s a metaphor I often share to bring us back to the Word and to the values Jesus has for us in these significant relationships: 

THE YOKE

We know from scripture that yokes can be light and burden lifting, and yokes can be unwieldy and dangerous. 

Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

2 Cor 6:14-15 NIV
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” 

This metaphor of connection to another for some purpose and through some mechanism is powerful. In the first example, Jesus extends His yoke to us as a mercy. Connection to Him through relationship yields rest. In the second example, Paul cautions us not to enter into partnership when there is a “lack of agreement” (later in verse 16) in the areas most important to us, namely if we serve the living God or something or someone else. 

I find this metaphor a rich place to visit when the subject of relationship comes up with students, even when students are dating other believers. This simple idea drills downs through the complexities of relationships and asks very simple but difficult questions.

Will a yoke of relational commitment allow me to carry more or less, will it allow me go farther or pull me away and down, will it yield rest or strife?

It is fun to talk about compatibility with students. I love hearing all their stories about enjoying the same music, being good enneagram pairings, having similar family backgrounds, having attended the same youth conferences and not even knowing it (What?? We were both at Passion in 2016???). 

But even when there is a lot of compatibility, often in young or new relationships, the connection isn’t pulling anything. They may be trying on the yoke, but there isn’t a plow, cart, or load to bare. In other words, the sharing of burdens - responsibilities, difficult relationships, financial circumstances, poor health, or challenging jobs - isn’t happening. Often they haven’t experienced anything that might make walking side by side difficult. 

And that’s OK. I don’t advise student friends to go out and load up on hardships with their brand new boyfriends. But it illustrates the point that when considering a deeper relationship with someone, it’s worth thinking through what it might be like to pull something with them. 

Are we aligned in the ways Jesus is shaping our values regarding career, family, and money?
How have I seen him carry a burden or help another person? 
When he is under stress, what helps him move forward? Could I offer that to him?
Will he share his load with Jesus too, so that I am not solely responsible for his welfare and happiness?
Is there health in his other deeper relationships?

These kinds of questions help us know if this person is a good “yoke-sharer.” There’s more to walking through life with someone than a shared identification as a follower of Jesus. We all know how differently that relationship manifests itself as it’s worked out in our values and important commitments - not to mention practically in our finances, our ideas about raising children, what kind of home we hope to create, and the list goes on and on.

I’d love to hear how you are helping women with these decisions, as young women are often such a mixed bag of emotions, areas of maturity and immaturity, insecurity and confidence, and positive and negative past experiences. What questions or passages do you use in helping young women?

And while I have you, how’s your own yoke-sharing going? 

Ben and I often gut it out too long before realizing a few adjustments might help. We get into the “just keep swimming” mode! This metaphor has given us cooperative language to describe how we feel about marriage. It’s also helped us envision creative ways to reorganize our “cart” for better health. Recently, after this kind of conversation, Ben took on the grocery shopping for our family as a way of “redistributing the weight.” It’s a small change that’s made a huge impact!

So, are you and your husband in step? Is the adulting-cart moving forward? Any sore spots from repeated pushing or pulling? Any adjustments, big or small, that might make the yoke-sharing healthier?

Jess Dager and her husband Ben have been on collegiate staff for 14 years and currently serve at the University of Illinois. They have 3 kiddos ages 16, 15, and 13. Jess enjoys reading, singing, and laughter. Her favorite part of working with students is watching God at work in their lives.

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