Whose Donkeys are Suffering?

Grandson Ayden and I Visiting Annie, Who is Not a Donkey, 2007
Fooling Myself
Sometimes when I read my bible, a verse jumps off the page and grabs my heart. I try to attend to these specific bits of scripture that draw me in, asking myself, “What does God want me to get out of this passage?”
Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not.
Since reading it a  few days ago, I find myself circling back, inexplicably, to this verse:
5 If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.
Exodus 23:5 (NLT)

I ponder this verse and come up stumped–partly, I suppose, because I misread the verse, mentally rendering it  as “If you see that the donkey of someone you hate has collapsed…” I’m not willing to recognize that I hate anyone, so I couldn’t make this fit personally.

Is that the lesson God wants me to learn, I wondered? Am I harboring ill will that I don’t acknowledge?

Last night I awoke in the middle of the night with this verse on my mind.

This morning I returned to the engaging verse, only to discover my error. So I’ll think about it more. It’s easy for me to imagine that someone hates me, though no specific names come to mind.

While considering the verse as I misread it, I could think of several examples that “fit” on a social level, rather than within my own heart. Consider the persistent problem of poverty in the United States. On one side we have people holding up a lack of personal responsibility as the ultimate culprit. On the other side we have people pointing to our obligation to help our less-fortunate neighbors. And while ideologues battle it out, children go hungry. Children sleep in cars. Children don’t receive medical care.

“Donkeys” are suffering.

I’m tempted to accept this reflection as the meaning in the message.

I’m resisting that temptation. I’ll keep thinking about the lessons this verse holds for me.

When God points me to a specific bit of His word and wakes me at night to consider it, the least I can do is pay attention, listen to Him, and think.

4 I call to you, to all of you!

I raise my voice to all people.
5 You simple people, use good judgment.
You foolish people, show some understanding.
6 Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you.
Everything I say is right,
7 for I speak the truth
and detest every kind of deception.
Proverbs 8:4-7 (NLT)