Am I God’s Donkey???
By Betsy Kelleher
Suppose a friend’s horse was misbehaving and you believed you knew how to “fix” the problem. Would you share your solution freely, or would you offer to train the horse yourself and charge a fee? Or—would you keep still, afraid to fail or look like a “know-it-all?” Such a project could become very time-consuming and emotionally exhausting, if you gave it your all. And with today’s quick-to-sue mentality, the liability of helping might be as big a fear as getting hurt by the horse. I’m very glad a new friend wasn’t afraid to get involved in helping me when I needed it about 30 years ago!
My son’s 4-H project mare was given to me after she had her first colt. He kept the colt and I got Fanny as a birthday present. For three years I had tried to help him “train” this young headstrong mare and although he had won some ribbons in speed shows, she was definitely not well-trained. I didn’t know one-tenth of what I needed to know! Feeling intimidated in my new responsibility as Fanny’s owner, I decided to take her to a professional trainer—but for three months one obstacle after another got in my way. Then I met a woman who not only trained Fanny and me—she also became a close friend. She reached out to us with her heart and soul, giving us the priceless gift of a very special partnership. The events that brought Fanny and me and Pam together seemed to be a gift from God. I believed that all the “coincidences” added up to a supernatural plan.
I wanted to share what I had learned. But when I wrote a book about those horse training experiences, I tried for 30 years to find a publisher without success. I finally decided to self-publish the book as, “Sometimes a Woman Needs a Horse.” However, when a borrowed horse I’d been riding was sold to this same friend and I saw the horse come alive under her training and care, I wrote “Dusty’s Magic” for the December ’95 issue of the Illinois Horse Network. And I’ve had a column in almost every issue since!
This column is both a privilege and a challenge. I’ve gotten discouraged now and then, since I’m not doing as much with horses as I used to and it’s difficult to come up with something different every month (if you know a horse problem or solution you would be willing to share in this column, why not send me an email? I need some ideas for next year’s columns!). I’ve told Connie a few times that I wouldn’t have a column for this issue—and maybe never again! She has been encouraging and supportive, even though she doesn’t agree with everything I write. I know that if God is using my column (and I pray that He is), it is not because of me, but because He has the power to work through any living being, whether humans or horses or donkeys (more about donkeys in a moment)!
That same friend, who did not share all my beliefs, once gave me a surprising response to a column I shared with her. “What do you think?” I asked, hoping for some helpful criticism, as she was also a writer. “Not much,” she replied. “I can spell proselytize.”
Well, I couldn’t spell it, but I knew what it meant! Her response was both disheartening and thought provoking. I’ve never promoted any specific church, but if she felt that way, maybe others did too. Yes, I do write from a Christian perspective and I’m very thankful for the freedom to do that. I realize that many people don’t agree with those beliefs, but I’m pretty sure those people don’t bother to read my columns. On the other hand, I’ve received enough favorable comments to encourage me to keep writing. I sat down at a Purina seminar table one evening in Prairietown and when a woman nearby learned I wrote this column that she read, this wonderful lady remarked, “I’m sitting with a celebrity!” (You didn’t think I remembered that, did you?)
I try to put something into each column to help horse owners, but I also look for a spiritual application or a parallel between Christian discipleship and horse training and maybe I “preach” a little. Maybe too much, I’ve been told. Well, perhaps I take my opportunities too seriously. But I believe it is a matter of life and death, literally.
The problems we experience with our riding mounts are often our own making. We don’t always understand that, and sometimes someone has to explain it. There is a story in the Old Testament, in Numbers 22, of a prophet named Baalim who is asked by Balak, king of Moab, to put a curse on the Israelites (Balak sees their growing numbers as a threat). God tells Baalim not to satisfy this request, because He has chosen these people to receive special blessing. Balak is persistent and Baalim keeps asking God what to do until God tells Baalim to go with Balak’s princes but to say only what He tells him to say. As Baalim is traveling, however, God sends an angel to stand before him with a sword. Baalim’s donkey turns aside three times and she is beaten for it; then the donkey is given a voice to speak and Baalim’s eyes are opened to see the angel. The donkey had actually “saved” Baalim’s foolish action from a fatal punishment.
If God can speak through a donkey, He can speak through anyone to accomplish His purpose. Maybe even me. This idea was affirmed by an email newsletter from a Christian publisher, which mentioned the Numbers 22 reference and said, “…just because you’ve written a book, don’t think you deserve recognition. If your message has come from God, He deserves the praise.” I think that applies to a column as well. “Praise God that He can use an imperfect human to pour forth His love.”
So—am I God’s donkey here? I just had to ask. Remember that it was a donkey that carried Mary, pregnant with Jesus, to Bethlehem—where Jesus was born in a stable manger as the Savior of the world. And it was a young donkey that Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem as His disciples proclaimed His coming “in the name of the Lord” which we celebrate on Palm Sunday. I’ve never owned a donkey, but we did have one in our stable for awhile. You could hear her unique voice all through the barn!
This column is my own unique voice. If anything I’ve written has encouraged a reader to become more aware of God’s love or to realize how He uses horses to bless us, then I am thankful. Perhaps I can warn someone of unsafe riding practices or of spiritual danger. Just because I own a horse (we have four at the moment) doesn’t mean I have all the answers! And just because I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1967 doesn’t mean I am perfect (as my family and friends well know!). I only wish to point my readers to the One Source of all knowledge and wisdom and blessing.
All through Scripture, people were waiting for God’s salvation. When Jesus was born, some came to worship Him; King Herod tried to kill him. The angels proclaimed Him to the shepherds as the Savior—Christ the Lord. It is up to each one of us to decide to worship or ignore Him.
This Christmas season we will buy gifts for our loved ones and hopefully enjoy time together in an atmosphere of love and family, with joy and peace. This Christmas, however, may be difficult for many. For those who have lost loved ones or a job, experienced financial loss, or face some serious physical problem, this merry season can stir up feelings of bitterness or heighten an empty loneliness. Beyond our personal problems, however, is the strength and wisdom of a Sovereign God who loves us and cares for us. Remember the saying, “Wise men still seek Him.” It’s true. Sometimes in our worst moments, He can shine His light into our hearts and bring new awareness of His Presence and His power to deliver. Hold onto your faith and seek His guidance. Kneel in worship and arise with hope.
(Originally published in the December 2008 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)