Parable of the equine mis-adventure

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. ~Prayer for Guidance, Book of Common Prayer, p. 832

Mule.jpgMules are nosy by nature, but I believe I have the nosiest mule in four states.

Since the day my mule Mel was born, there isn’t a thing in creation that he doesn’t think he shouldn’t pick up and put in his mouth, nor any door or window-like shape that he shouldn’t insert his head. He was born curious, and on any given day he can be on that spectrum from “a little curious” to “downright nosy.” He loves items in boxes. I’ve seen him remove items from cardboard boxes in the pasture, and take all the files out of my farrier’s tool box. He stole a screwdriver out of my own toolbox once and engaged me in a game of keep-away that lasted 45 minutes, and ended with him dropping it in the grass, kicking up his heels, and running off, flinging his head in victory.

So I was not surprised when I awoke one morning to the concerned whinnying of his horse compatriot Windy. For all of Mel’s curiousity and bravado, Windy is the equine equivalent of the prissy old lady clutching her pearls, about to succumb to an attack of the vapors. It was clear why she was upset. Mel had somehow ripped the plastic trough from his upright aluminum free-standing feed bunker and was standing in the feedlot with the frame of it on his back and his back legs entangled in the frame. For some reason unbeknownst to me, he had stuck his head through the opening made by the missing trough, then lifted up and was wearing it more or less like a harness…but with his legs straddling one of the legs of the frame. It had him entangled in such a way that he could only move his back legs a few inches at a time.

He was in over his head–literally–and he knew it. So much so, that he knew all he could do is stand still and wait silently.

Mules are clever. Unlike horses, when they find themselves entangled, they won’t thrash and make it worse. They go into standstill mode, or sit down mode. The problem is, they often also go silent. Something in the donkey half of their DNA says “Don’t make noise, or you will attract predators.” Truthfully, he could have been that way all day–I could have left for work and never seen him there. Horses, however, for all their skittishness, have no problem making noise when concerned–hence his equine girlfriend’s frantic pleas.

I approached calmly and cautiously, speaking in steadying tones of voice to both Mel and Windy. I considered the possibility that Windy might hinder my approaching Mel. Even though we are on very good terms, she might be protective of her friend. Mel simply nuzzled my hair and continued to stand still as I gently slid the metal frame over his rump and he calmly stepped out, acting like he knew how to extricate himself all along. Once free, he followed me back to the gate like a lost puppy. (“Mama! You SAVED ME! I love you!”) When Windy excitedly came up to him, he whirled and bit her on the rump.

Well, that’s gratitude for you.

As I finished my coffee and got ready for work, I wondered how many times God discovers us hopelessly entangled in the things we stuck our own noses in and found ourselves over our head. Like Mel, how often do we go in standstill or sit down mode, never uttering a peep, unable to bring ourselves to ask for help? I’m sure that like Windy’s nickers, grunts, and whinnies, it’s the prayers of others that catch God’s attention when we are too fearful, too prideful, or too whipped to pray. We may well be thinking, “Don’t be praying for me–it’s not THAT bad–others need it worse,” but we have no control over the prayers of others.

For that matter, when we find ourselves finally extricated from our predicaments, it’s a natural reaction for us to praise God and/or Jesus from the rooftops. We tag along just as closely as Mel tagged behind me. “Thank you Jesus! I’ll follow you anywhere!”–but sadly, we also sometimes turn around and bite the people who had been loyal to us in the name of God, rather than embrace them, because we didn’t like the way they did it. We didn’t like being powerless. We nipped at them for being “the other” and that they couldn’t possibly understand our situation. We become embarrassed by their show of love and push them away.

The Parable of the Equine Misadventure in the Feed Lot, perhaps, is just another reminder that we all need each other in this quirky family of humankind, despite our differences. Where do we feel called to reach out to “the other” today?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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