s l o w l y.
Not so the donkey (or was it a local pet camel?) that sauntered down the carpeted aisle of our church for an off-the-top Christmas program one year. The owner assured planners that his steed was very well-trained for public situations. But somewhere between the prayer rail and the side exit, the animal forgot his public manners. I wondered later if the janitors flipped coins to decide who had to clean it up. As for the choral number after the animal’s “performance,” who could even remember it?
I think there’s a bit of donkey in many of us. We like to get some recognition (or notoriety). Like the Christmas story. Ever think of the donkey that Mary rode on from Nazareth to Bethlehem? There is no Biblical reference to such an animal, just that the twosome had to travel about eighty miles to be a part of the census called by ruling authorities. With Mary nine months pregnant, it’s doubtful she walked it—thus the presumed donkey. Healthy people who could walk 20 miles a day could make it in four. But with a donkey, and Joseph believed to be an older (and slower) man...maybe a week?
A writer of children’s stories could have an imagination’s heyday with that scenario. Yep, that donkey was a key figure in the Christmas story. He got little Mary to Bethlehem in time for a Messianic prophecy to be fulfilled with her baby’s birth. Brag, brag, brag.
Instead of that approach, I lean toward something written by Jim Elliott, one of the missionaries martyred in 1956 in Ecuador by tribal people they hoped to reach with the Gospel. “Missionaries are very human folks,” he once said, “just doing what they’re asked. Simply a bunch of nobodies exalting Somebody.”
When God calls us to a ministry, He doesn’t need roosters who crow about what they’re doing for the Lord. Or donkeys, who hee-haw so loud (like the one my neighborhood) that you can’t miss their presence. Admittedly, some of God’s workers are more in the public eye. But there are lots of them behind the scenes, just working away. Or plodding the rocky, weary miles from one place to another, helping out in a task bigger than they can imagine.
When we get discouraged about the journey, we just need to look back and see how far we’ve come, and then keep going. The Messiah’s arrival may be sooner than we think!