We've all heard this expression, I'm sure. In Niger we see donkeys everywhere, and they are some of the most difficult animals to work with. Yet, they get a lot of work done. Most of the carts that carry stuff around Tera are pulled by donkeys. Currently, we're having a lot of our water hauled in by donkey cart since we don't have any water coming into our pipes.
The classic stubbornness of donkeys is most revealing when you're traveling. If they're standing in the road, they won't move out of the way even if you're honking at them or racing up on them fast. At twilight, the gray donkeys are particularly hard to see because they blend in with the road and the sky. You have to keep a sharp eye out for them on the road because they won't move out of the way.
This stubbornness was illustrated in a hilarious way one day as we waited to catch the ferry across the Niger River. About 150 donkeys had come across the river on the ferry to our side, and the herders were trying to get them off the ferry so the cars could get on. There was a small gap of no more than three inches between the deck of the ferry and the ramp of the ferry. The donkeys refused to step over this gap. They would rather stay on the deck of the ferry where there was no food or water than step over the gap and move on to the "greener" pastures below. The herders were doing everything they could to get the donkeys to move: beating their backs with sticks, pulling their legs (literally), pushing them, and grabbing them by the nose and ears. The donkeys refused to budge. Or if they did, they would come up to the crack and circle back around onto the ferry deck. It was funny watching the whole incident.
Then it occurred to me that we can be a lot like those donkeys. We're comfortable where we are, thank you, and we don't want to move out of our comfort zone. God wants to lead us on to greener pastures and take us beside still waters, but we refuse. We'd rather settle for the slim pickings this earth has to give us than to step over the gap in faith into His arms and let Him lead us on. Sometimes God has to bring suffering or pain into our lives to get us moving and push us to step over the small crack we're afraid of. Or we're just happy to rely on all the things we possess and don't want to make a small leap of faith to trust God. God then gives us a good whack or pulls our legs, and we have to make that step of faith in pain. We question why God is doing this to us. If only we'd step over without complaining and knowing He is with us, we'd have a much more pleasant life.
Well, it took a half hour for the herders to get all those donkeys off the ferry, but they finally did, and what they left behind was their smelly detritus. I won't explain it to you, but you get the picture. It was awful. And the cars in front of us couldn't wait for the ferry workers to clean up the mess and sweep it off the ferry. We had to hold our noses when we got on and watch our step if we got out of the car. I'm not sure there was a spiritual application to that part of the journey, but I'll let you make an application if you can see one.
Maybe next time we should offer a carrot to the donkeys. NOT!! I don't think even that would have enticed them to step over the gap.