21 So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. 22 But God's anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall. So he struck her again. 26 Then the angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”
Here is the story of Balaam and his donkey, a story commonly referred to as the story of "Balaam's Ass", but which should be called "Balaam, the Horse's Ass" because that's what Balaam made out of himself.
Balaam knows where he is headed. He is intent to get there. And nothing is going to stop.
Nothing, that is, except life.
It turns out God has another plan; and no matter how hard Balaam tries to get that donkey of his down the path, the donkey (as we say in Texas) just ain't having it. He ain't having it because turns out the donkey knows more about the path than its rider.
I often quote Paula D'Arcy: "God comes to us disguised as our lives." I take that to mean that when the donkey we're riding refuses to take us down the path we want to go then maybe God is trying to tell us something. Maybe that's not the way after all; maybe it's the way to destruction. Maybe we ought to stop and turn around.
We assume we know the path where life should take us. But then I remember the little warning my elementary teachers gave about those who "assume": It makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me".
It sure did of Balaam.
But in the end that turned out to be a blessing really; because realizing that he was actually dumber than a jackass spared ol' Balaam from being deader than a doornail.
And that there is the wisdom of humiliation.
May those who have ears as big as a donkey's let them hear.