From: Mary Soto
I’ve always been fond of the story of Balaam and his talking donkey. I remember the first time I attempted to read straight through the Bible as a teenager: after muscling through some of the more challenging sections of Numbers, this story practically jumped off the page for me. Since animal cruelty was an issue I was passionate about (the Humane Society of the U.S. being the first organization I actually donated my own money to), I loved the fact that God gave a voice to this humble donkey that was being beaten unjustly. I also love how sensible the donkey is when God opens her mouth. Instead of matching Balaam’s rage with her own outcry, she is like a wise teacher who instructs with a question, “You’ve ridden me all your life, have I ever acted like this before?” Balaam, on the other hand, is overtaken by frustration, to the point that he can’t see or think clearly. (He actually yells back at the donkey when she first speaks, instead of being surprised that a donkey is actually talking!) I mean, he probably had a lot on his mind: he had mixed feelings about this journey he was setting out on, he may not have gotten much sleep the night before… and now his donkey starts acting crazy! This is the last thing he needs! So instead of responding thoughtfully (curiously attentive to why this unusual behavior in his trusted animal companion), he reacts. I can relate, especially in this season of motherhood. Too often, instead of compassionately seeking to understand why my daughter is acting the way she is, or responding firmly, but lovingly, with appropriate consequences, I just react. I snap, I yell, I freak out. And it’s never helpful for anyone. I have felt much sorrow about this particular parenting failure, and have prayed many prayers about it. I can relate more than ever to Paul’s lament in Romans 7.15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
But back to Balaam, I think it’s important to recognize that what seemed like a senseless interruption to him (his donkey’s strange behavior), was actually something that saved his life. And maybe when the disturbance presented itself, if he was able to just stop (take a couple deep breaths), and evaluate the situation calmly, he would have been able to respond more wisely, perhaps even to see the deeper reality in front of him. God has given me the grace to respond this way more often than I used to. And I certainly have had the experience of God using something that seemed so unwanted and undesirable for my good, for a greater purpose.
I want to end with a quote from the devotional Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood by Melissa Kruger (which we’re using in mom’s group this year). While browsing the book, I found these lines particularly helpful and relevant to this struggle. “His promise to work all circumstances for my good allows me to peacefully bear the unplanned moments of my days. He will uphold me by his goodness and strengthen and help me in all things. If I cling to my vision of my day or week, I grow increasingly worried and anxious. A peaceful mother keeps a loose grip on her plans and clings instead to God…”
I live in Medfield with my husband, Jose, and my daughter, Hannah. I have much joy this fall over the answered prayer of a wonderful preschool for Hannah where she is happy and thriving. (And I'm able to write a reflection in a quiet house this morning, what a gift!) :)