Monday, April 23, 2012

The Legend of the Aji Panca Peppers and the Dumb Donkey

Sometimes I need to be reminded that God's plan does not revolve around me.  This weekend was one of those cases.  I am not sure if it is lack of sleep or just not getting enough time to rest, but things have been getting to me more than they should have lately.  My prayer has been for God to change things or make my heart right with them.  While there is nothing wrong with that prayer as it reflects those things that are on my heart, I have to leave myself open to God's plan despite what it might take me through.  This weekend also taught me that.  I have to re-learn sometimes that my role is to serve God's purposes not for God to serve mine.  Not that God does not do so much for me, but I can only hope to find that blessing when I am serving according to His will. 
So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. Then God's anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants [were] with him. Now the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road. Then the Angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, [with] a wall on this side and a wall on that side. And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall; so he struck her again. Then the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there [was] no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam's anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 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?" And Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!" So the donkey said to Balaam, "[Am] I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since [I became] yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?" And he said, "No." Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face.  Numbers 22:21-31 NKJV
My story is simple.  I was making chili for a competition and one of the key peppers I ordered was lost in the mail.  I was not happy,  I had no alternative, and I could not figure out what else to use.  I purchased other peppers as a contingency, but they just would not be the same.  I was grumpy, I was upset, and I was not acting even close to under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  I was kind of like that for the past week.  As I said, things have been really getting to me lately.  

Even the peppers were an adventure.  First I spent a good amount of time researching dehydrated peppers, then I went to our local Mexican market looking for them.  When I did not find them there, I ordered them online.  They should have arrived by Thursday and when they did not arrive by Friday I began to panic.  It did not help that according to the USPS tracking system, they were in some mysterious limbo.  On Friday I returned again to the local Mexican market and once again I did not find them.  I purchased other peppers with the hopes that they would still arrive on Saturday.  Saturday came and they did not come.  After collecting myself a little bit, I decided to again return to the Mexican market and see if they at least had the paste made from those peppers hoping I could maybe use that.  They did have the paste, and right underneath the paste, they had the peppers.  My wife was sure they did not have them the  other two times.  Ironically, it was right after I was praying for some small sign of encouragement.  God was not done yet.  We payed for our miracle peppers and went out to our car.  As we began to get set to pull out, an old handicapped man who spoke very little English came up to our car asking if we had some change to spare.  Unless I know it is a scam, I generally give when asked.  For those who think that is wrong, I refer you to what happened to those who failed to care for the least among us.  I opened my wallet and saw a five dollar bill.  I thought about giving that and my wife chimed in and said "Just give the five."  So I did.  The man thanked us as best he can in his broken English and actually began to cry.  As we were pulling away we saw him raising his hands in a way as to thank God for what he just received.  Then I thought that maybe all the stress regarding those peppers was just to put me at that place at that time to give this one man a blessing.  And you know what?  That made everything alright.  Then I was also reminded that God could even use someone acting like a, um, donkey. 

As for Balaam, I can see myself as both Balaam on the donkey.  Balaam because he was acting like a donkey and the donkey because the donkey could take no glory in what he did for Balaam.  I can also see myself as Balaam at the end of this passage, realizing just how small I was and how great God was and that God's plan does not revolve around my convenience.  I knew I had to submit to it, though I still need God's help in learning to not get frustrated over the little things. 

I was Balaam because I was acting in my own flesh and not under the direction of the Lord.  The Lord never asks us to be mopey or grumpy.  The Lord tells us in all things to be thankful, and being grumpy or mopey is certainly not being thankful.  Balaam was also selfish.  He was going to get rich even if it meant harming his brethren.  He wanted to profit from being a prophet and he was helping the enemy.  In the end, he told the enemy how to get Israel to sin and therefore lose its blessing.  I moped and grumped and was caught up in the idea that everything needs to be about me.  I didn't care what was going on in the world, all I knew is that I did not have my peppers.  I was selfish and was thinking only of myself and my precious chili.  I get like that sometimes and I pray the Lord help break me of that.   

I was the donkey because when the Lord did use me, it was not because I was out looking to serve the Lord.  All I was thinking about was my peppers.  There was not grand prayer for the Lord to use me that day.  There was no seeking out someone who needed a blessing. I did not do any great spiritual act.  I was merely in the right place at the right time to give someone $5.00 that the Lord provided for me.  I was acting like a donkey and the Lord used me even in that state.  I can take no glory in blessing anyone.  The Lord merely opened my eyes at that moment in time to the needs of another (who had much bigger problems than peppers) and led me to give him a small blessing.  I was being a donkey and yet the Lord used me. 

The lesson I learned was that not everything does revolve around me.  While sitting there stewing in my own self pity about something incredible insignificant, I should have been seeking after the Lord and what lesson or purpose He had for me in all of that.  I was blind to everything but my own frustrations and spent too much time in stress for no good reason.  Not there is ever a good reason for stress, but this was not even a good bad reason.  I was just seeing my own life and not seeing myself as part of God's greater plan.  I learned that I need to stop thinking of only God's plan for my life but how God's plan for my life is part of His much greater plan for the world. I am but a small piece in an impossible complex puzzle and though God cherishes me as a Father does His son, He does not cherish me any more than the other pieces of that puzzle.  I was acting like the spoiled child who wanted everything to be about Him instead of asking how I can be a part of His family and His will.  I was asking for a blessing for myself never thinking in how that blessing could come from blessing another. 

Of course in saying that life is not all about me, I wrote a post all about me, but with everyone else in mind.  I know we all have times of pity parties when we want things to revolve around us.  Please take a moment, though, to learn from this person who sometimes acts like a donkey, and put God and others first and realize that whatever you are going through is for a reason.  That reason may have nothing to do for you, but even if it is not, know that it is always to bless someone somewhere and by just submitting ourselves to God's plan we can be blessed through that blessing. 
The steps of a [good] man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds [him with] His hand. Psalm 37:23-24 NKJV

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