Have you ever psychoanalyzed a donkey? I read once a long time ago that titles should grab your audience. I think this time I’ve really succeeded. Seriously, though, have you ever heard of horse whisperers? I guess there are also dog whisperers out there too. Well, I met what I think is a “donkey whisperer” once.
But first I must forecast the applications of this blog. Since ancient Jews were generally poor farmers, donkeys were their common “tractors” and “vehicles.” They had to learn how to work with donkeys. Balaam’s donkey and the goad Jesus spoke of, to Saul of Tarsus, are both valuable lessons for us. Psychoanalysis will make the use of the goad clearer, and we will also apply the lesson from Balaam’s donkey if we’re wise.
Have you ever been really frustrated, then found out the object of your frustration was so logical, it made you feel bad for being frustrated? There’s an old expression aptly suited for this occasion: “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
I think we’re all familiar with how stubborn donkeys can be. This “donkey whisperer” explained the reason and what to do about it. She said in the wild, donkeys don’t herd as horses do. Horses herd to find strength in numbers, for protection. But this requires they live only where there’s enough food and water to sustain them all. Donkeys, on the other hand, came from more arid places where there’s not a lot of food and water because they’ve learned to be independent. Their front legs are adequate weapons for killing all smaller animals and severely wounding larger ones. They fight by stomping. This behaviour must also be accompanied by a stubborn streak, though. It’s survival of the fittest. And donkeys are born with this stubborn streak ingrained in them.
As the “donkey whisperer” explained this to me, a donkey came up to us, since we were at a farm where donkeys were kept. In fact, he pushed his buttocks between us. As I chuckled with surprise she said, “Case in point,” and illustrated. She stiffened her 10 fingers as straight as she could and drove 10 fingertips into his buttocks (beside the tail) as hard as she could. After about 5 seconds or so the donkey took a step forward. Immediately she pulled her hands away.
She explained further that the trick to working with donkeys is learning what they like and don’t like. This donkey liked to have his backside scratched, which was why he pushed his buttocks between us. She often gave him such scratches, but not this time. Instead, she did something he found uncomfortable. And when he took a step forward she immediately rewarded him. To make a donkey cooperate, one must give immediate rewards for every bit of progress. After she did this 2 more times the donkey walked away.
It reminded me of why Jesus told Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Have you ever ignored those pricks of conscience as you read your Bible or people were telling you something you didn’t want to hear? And what about Balaam’s donkey? Do you ever use your frustrations to remind yourself it may be your own heart that’s your own worst enemy?
I took the above picture at Nazareth Village in 2004.