This week we commemorate Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. In ancient Middle Eastern countries, leaders rode on horses when they went into war, but chose to ride on a donkey symbolically when they arrived in peace. The name Jerusalem means “habitation of peace.” Consequently, when Jesus chose to ride on a donkey, he conveyed the clear message that he came in peace – and thereby transformed the world.
Another common characterization of donkeys is that they are stubborn. According to the University of Edinburgh, however, donkeys are more stoic than horses, less easily startled and prefer to move slowly without being rushed along. When horses encounter an unknown and fearful situation, they typically will startle and bolt from the scene. Donkeys, on the other hand, tend to freeze and assess the situation before they do anything. If threatened, frightened or confused, they may plant their feet firmly in place and refuse to move. This is an asset if the rider wants the donkey to carefully choose their path down a rocky and unstable hillside. It is a sign of stubbornness if the rider wants to override the donkey’s fear and move forward in haste.
When we are challenged to grow and explore greater possibilities for our life, our path often takes us out of our comfort zone. A natural tendency is to resist taking a new path that leads to unknown encounters and stick with the “safer” and well-trodden path. We don’t know whether the unknown people and conditions we encounter will be friendly and welcoming, antagonistic, or just hard to figure out. Will we be called into battle with unforeseen demons? Should we resist new people or situations that ask us to respond in new ways? Should we just freeze while we figure out what to do – or should we automatically battle our way through any opposition?
If we learn to “dance with the donkey,” we can follow the path that Jesus showed us. He proceeded in peace, carefully assessing the situation and discerning what the Divine Intention was for him that day. Rather than being short sighted and stubborn, Jesus persistently moved forward in peace. He took time to discover and understand the unknown rather than ignoring or avoiding challenges. As he “danced with the donkey,” he let his resistance fade away as he surrendered to what was. This opened the path to Divine wisdom and revealed a new way forward to inner peace and transformation.
Love and light,
Rev. Pam Cosby Brandman