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"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness. 2 Corinthians 6:14. "Can two walk together except they agree?" Amos 3:3.

"Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance" (Shackles by Mary Mary). Dance like David danced. 2 Samuel 6:14.

At the outset, we understand that "yoke" has to be akin to a hindrance of some sort, such that a person would not easily take upon himself or herself. In fact, the dictionary describes "yoke" as: 1. something that is regarded as oppressive or burdensome. 2. subjection to some force, compulsion, or influence, specifically physical restraint. Serfdom or slavery. 3. a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull. Spiritual yoke: can be anything that has influence over us negatively. A yoke in the spiritual sense can prevent us from achieving our destiny.

Who in their right mind would consciously take on a burden that is too heavy or too hard to carry? The answer is multifaceted, ranging from ignorance to magical thinking. The reality is that we all do at some point in our lives. Let's take a look see at how innocent some yokes can present themselves; advantageous, conquerable and some can even appear to be fun.

Scenario 1: Boy meets girl (or boy and/or girl are rebounding from a previous failed encounter) and they fall madly in love (infatuation really), and decide this is love at first sight. The Lord has answered their prayers, they believe. (Mind you, they did not pray). "He is so good looking." "She is drop dead gorgeous." This is it; he is the one, she is the one, and they decide to become one. After all when you find "the one," you know instantly," some say. It will be fun getting to know each other. Some disagreements might arise. No problem. After all, does not love conquer all? So after three months they tie the knot. Six weeks later they decide to dissolve the union. You might be thinking, "I don't believe that," or you may be thinking, "I know someone like that." For those of you who might be wondering what happened? The answer is they had nothing in common other than their opinions about each other's looks and magical thinking. (Beauty fades and vitality wanes). Being at odds on everything can become burdensome. What

about love? You might ask. What about it?

Love is not enough when you disagree on everything else. My wonderful and wise nephew, Vernon confirmed for me that even when you think you can love someone enough to cover their shortcomings, emotionally, financially, etc., you may still find yourself and the relationship sorely lacking. Dissolution may be the only responsible and safe way out. It is more advisable to be on the same page from the "get-go."

Scenario 2: Two friends who recently rekindled their friendship over a couple of months decided to get together to see a movie. They met years ago at a computer geek camp when they were teens. One has gone on to be hugely successful while the other is getting by. One friend feels the other has the inside track to a good job. One friend likes rated R movies and the other likes movies rated X. One prefers and will only sit in the very front of the theatre and the other will only sit in the last row. Neither is willing to compromise. They decide to go out to eat instead. One is strictly vegan and will not go to a restaurant where there is any type of meat on the menu while the other is a meat lover. One friend has a fear of taking public transportation so will only go out in the friend's car (has to be picked up). The other friend does not take public transportation (not a big fan of people he does not know), and so he

prefers to drive. However, he has an issue with being on time and resents having to start out earlier to pick up this friend in order to hang out. Go figure!

"How can two walk together unless they agree?"

Scenario 3: Two people meet at college. They make fast friends and one frequently has to do errands off campus. One is always obliging by accompanying the other (he is bored so why not). It turns out that one is involved in dealing drugs and his clients are off campus. No thought was given to what the other did in their spare time or what the other was doing while he as waiting in the car. One day a bust was made while off campus, and one student was arrested. It just so happened that the one who usually accompanies the one who got busted had a test to study for and was not available to go with him. Whew!! That was close.

Choose your friends wisely, with forethought and ongoing thought.

In the scripture noted above, Paul is talking about being unequally yoked. Many understand this to mean that he is talking about being married to someone who does not believe as you do in a religious sense. While others believe that he means that you should not be influenced by those who are not of like mind. There are points to made for both views. Let's just say you marry someone who does not believe as you do on how to raise the children, save money, where to live, when or if to purchase a house or to live in an apartment, what school you want the children to attend, what faith to practice, etc. This certainly seems like there would be some level of incompatibility even without considering whether or not you are of the same religious belief.

In the scenarios noted, you may think "well nobody got hurt." Not physically, but think again. It could easily have led to something more serious; especially in the case of relationships where one partner is physically abusive and violent and able to shield this behavior while dating. Some instances have resulted in fatalities. Breakup of a friendship can be traumatic and may result in anxiety and depression. It's possible. Hanging out with some people we call friends can land one in the slammer. The newspapers are filled with real life stories of those who have gotten caught up (unknowingly) as accessories to a "so called" friend's or acquaintance's illegal behavior. Think.

"So Delilah said to Samson, "Tell me the secret of your great strength, and how you can be tied up and subdued?" Judges 16:6. Now you tell me, what friend of yours are you to willing share your weaknesses with? You may not find anything wrong with this. But, let me caution you, this person had better be a real friend. Delilah was not such a friend or acquaintance. Samson eventually gave in and told her the secret to his strength; to which she responded by turning him over to the Philistines (his enemies). It did not end well. You know the story. If not, read the book of Judges, chapter 16. This reminds me of one my grandmother's sayings, "all that glitters ain't gold."

Sadly, we are often not equipped for the some of the yokes that we take on. You see the strongest man in the world (Samson) was no match for the beautiful and scheming Delilah. Samson was warned not to get involved with Philistine women, but I guess she looked too enticing. Perhaps he thought his charm could win her over; (magical thinking) or in his case disobedience. When you are unequally yoked understand that such people, places, and things will (sooner or later) present a challenge that you must face and make a decision about. Further, you will probably be a poor match for the challenge. More often than not, there will be some unpleasant consequences.

Liberate yourself from the consequences by being wise when encountering potential yokes. Some suggestions are noted below.

1. Get your head out of the clouds. There are no answers there; especially not the ones you want. We live in the real world, and we are all flawed in some way (I did not make this up). Romans 3:23. There is only one perfect person that has ever lived. We, on the other hand have some issues. "Ms. Right and Mr. Right already left town." Prayerfully, when we connect with someone we need to be compatible to the point that we are able to love and support each other in a healthy and functioning relationship. Enter with understanding; with your eyes open, and be prepared to lovingly work through reasonable hiccups that may arise in the course of a normal relationship.

2. Know what you want; choose wisely, and don't settle. Keep the "exit ramp" in clear view. If there is any doubt, get out. It is okay to have standards, and your antenna should activate when the potential friend or romantic interest is diametrically opposed to your ideals. Don't fool yourself, "they are not going to change." Many of us have fallen prey to this illusion. You cannot accommodate them enough to be what you think they should be unless that is what they want. Statistics show that people rarely change because someone expects them to. Be realistic. "You have to know when to walk away and when to run." (Glenn Campbell). Don't compromise. Stop misreading signals; run. You know what you want, aim for that.

3. Do a relationship check. Look before you leap! In this age of electronics at your fingertips (especially you tech-savvy types), there is no reason to begin a relationship clueless; whether a friendship or a romantic pursuit. I am not advising you to spy, but at least be aware and informed. Ask real questions (maybe a little probing) of them and mutual friends. Listen carefully to their conversation and then observe. "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." Maya Angelou. Their actions will reveal if you really want to engage with them. You know what you are looking for; don't settle. Regardless of what you might be feeling, he/she is not the last person on the planet. You will have another chance to make a connection with someone who is worth your time.

4. Celebrate wise choices; Dance! Physical movement is freeing. What is more important is the story behind the celebration. King David danced before the Lord. 2 Samuel: 6;14. Why did he dance? David was celebrating forgiveness and another chance to get it right, which he did. When the ark of God was transported previously (under King David's directions), Uzzah lost his life. The next time King David attempted to move the ark of God, he did so with due reverence and sacrifices. God was pleased. David danced to express inward joy and thankfulness to God for being allowed to take the ark of God to Jerusalem without any divine displeasure as before. Yes, it feels good to get it right. David's good intentions were not equally yoked with God's standards. Take the time and care to get it right. Choosing the right person or thing for your life is uplifting. Avoid self-inflicted yokes (and there are many kinds) that may prove detrimental to your life, things such as bad habits; overeating, overspending, over-drinking, under-thinking (being naive), smoking, worrying, etc., etc. The reward will be that much greater in the end. When you see that you are equally yoked, it will be a time of celebration: so dance! You can dance on the inside or on the outside, but do dance. It is cause for celebration!!! Dance like David danced or like Journey!!!!

My youngest granddaughter dances when her favorite jam comes on: "Baby Shark." She smiles this broad beautiful smile as she sways back and forth; side to side, and bounces up and down in tune with the music. She is free of worry and concern. Someone else has that task. I feel free just watching her move (I dance on the inside). Today is her birthday, she is two years old. Happy Birthday, Journey Robbi-Joy. Keep on dancing baby!!!

Here's to taking the time and wisdom to be equally yoked in all things! Be blessed.

Yours, Yvette

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