The Donkey In the Well
There was a parable that I once heard that I would like to share with you about a stubborn, old donkey.
A farmer owned a donkey that was very old, tired and had exceeded his usefulness. At that time the farmer also had a well that had dried up, for that year it had been very hot. So, to take care of both problems the farmer decided to take the donkey and throw it into the well and bury it. As the farmer began to shovel the dirt into well, the donkey began to get covered with the dirt. But, instead of giving up, the donkey shook off the dirt and stepped onto the dirt packing it down firmly beneath its hooves. After a few hours, the donkey was finally close enough to the top and was able to jump out of the well. The farmer so impressed by the donkey’s willingness to live that he treated the donkey with dignity and respect until its natural death.
I know that this is just a parable and the circumstances are unusual but the idea behind it is very powerful. In this parable we have a few elements that I would like to expand on:
The first is the donkey and any and all of us can be the donkey. As we get older, we get stubborn and more set in our ways, we are not willing to listen nor change and we are not willing to open our hearts to anything. We believe that we have done enough and give up fighting for what we believe in, or we fight for what we believe in and we are so stubborn we believe that our way is the only way. There are many ways of being stubborn, two of the main ones are either from ignorance or from pride. Either way being stubborn is, in my opinion, a grave error even to the point of a sin. As time goes on the circumstances of the world begin to bury us in different ways. We close our minds to what God has to say when we are so stubborn that we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us. We are, in many ways, either the proverbial donkey or the literal donkey.
The second aspect of the parable is the well. There are two ways to look at the well. Being thrown into a well would be a terrifying experience. Being in a place where there is no way out. You can climb out, or you can go forward, backward, left or right in circles. And, digging down would only put you deeper into the ground. All you can do is scream and attempt to get someone’s attention, but most of the time screams go unheard and people end up dying in the well. The walls of the well become that last thing you ever see. You look at your circumstances and see the end and a life with no hope. There is no one above you throwing down a rope, or there is no one trying to bury you! The first way of looking at the well is hopeless, the second is not.
Now, the second aspect of the well is also terrifying, but the second aspect has hope. In this aspect we have someone above you. Either someone finds you and repels down to you to help you out, or someone throws down a rope to pull you out or gives you the opportunity to climb out. The final is having the farmer, as the parable explains burying you inside the well. The well becomes the world. Sometimes we are at the bottom and we see no one helping us. We see the walls, we see a way out but we decide that the bottom of the well is the final place we will be. We get comfortable with being at the bottom. We accept our circumstances and we give up and die.
Sometimes we are at the bottom of the well and people come to help us. They come to us or they throw out a line to reel us back in. Some of us see our circumstances and grab on to the much needed help and allow ourselves to be pulled out of doom. We see that God sends us many ways of help. Either He will send someone, or He Himself will come to our aid. Either way we have to reach out and take the aid. Sometimes, however, help comes, the rope gets thrown down, even Christ comes and we choose to be stubborn. We deny the help, we reject the truth and we turn our backs on the gifts of God. We allow the circumstances to dictate our lives and we give up and die.
The third aspect is the dirt. The dirt is interesting, for it could either be our salvation or our demise. The dirt is the sins and circumstances of the world. Many times we begin to get buried beneath sinful ways by corruption. We eat ourselves to death. We smoke, we drink, we get manipulated by evil. We rely on money, and it becomes our god. We betray our friends, we speak evil. Sometimes we bury ourselves beneath superstition. We bury ourselves beneath our own stubbornness. We slowly see the dirt filling the well and we stand completely still and eventually we are so heavily burdened by everything surrounding us that the evils of this world now are over our heads and we end up being buried in a tomb of our own doing. No hopes, no dreams, no life.
But sometimes, the sins of the world have no power. We stand at the bottom of the well and we begin to look for a way out. We begin to look up, and set our face toward the Creator. We see no ropes, we see no one repelling down, but we still trust that Christ will show us the way. As the dirt begins to fly and begins to bury us we make the choice. We begin to pray and fight back. We shake off the dirt and the muck and then take a step up onto to it. Sometimes the dirt buries our feet, but we pull our feet out and step up. Sometimes it’s up to our knees, but still God gives us the strength and we step up one step closer to freedom. No matter how high the dirt gets, no matter how much is piled up on top of us we trust that Christ will give us the courage and the strength to step up. The walls of the well, instead of being a prison, can be seen as our lifespan. The past gets buried behind us the closer we get to our freedom. The dirt only becomes a memory.
Sometimes we need the ropes to pull us up, sometimes we need someone to come down to us, sometimes we need to just step up onto the dirt, most times we need a combination of all of it to get out of the well. Whenever we get so buried in our lives that we cannot pull ourselves up, God does and will intervene as long as we ask for the help, but that is the key to it all—we need to ask for the help and not let our stubbornness and pride bury us completely. We need to do everything in our power to serve and to keep fighting, and when our strength fails the Holy Spirit will gives us what we need to keep going.
The fourth aspect is the farmer. Now I debated on the idea of the farmer in my mind. Is there more than one aspect of the farmer? Who could the farmer be? After debate within my mind I finally decided that the farmer could not have any one label placed upon him. The farmer, for all intents and purposes is the world. The world owns our bodies, Christ owns our souls. The owning is very ambiguous at best, for ownership indicates that we have being bought and paid for. We are formed in the womb, but the soul can only come from the Lord. The body is formed through union between a man and a woman, through sexual union—a physical joining of two people. We are only married and given away in marriage here on earth, and only God can join our spirit with the physical body. Once we die, the soul once again returns to the One who created it.
For the physical body, the farmer continues to bury us. The farmer is unrelentless in his actions. The farmer is controlled by Satan, the shovel is owned by Satan and the dirt is definitely owned by Satan. But everything is really owned by God, especially we Christians who believe that we were bought and paid for by the blood of Christ. We must know and remember that we are in control of our will and choices. God is in control of everything else. We cannot stop Satan from attacking us, but we can give him authority if we allow him to. No weapon formed against us can prosper. No one and nothing can hurt us, unless we accept that torment and pain.
Keep Looking Up
We need to keep looking up toward the light at the mouth of the well for the end of all things. We only have a short time here on earth to live our lives and glorify our Creator with our lives. The farmer has no authority over us, because we are not of this world. We are aliens and strangers to this world. When we find ourselves at the bottom of the well being covered with the dirt of this world, we must shake off everything that is thrown on us and put it beneath our feet where it belongs.