Ever gotten a really strange gift that sometimes feels a little bit more like a curse than a blessing? What do you do with that?
I really love studying the women of the Bible, and one story I read over and over is that of Hagar. A pregnant girl, a servant, she runs away from the abuse she’s facing and a bitter owner. She sits under a bush waiting to die. And then the oddest piece of the story happens.
As she’s sitting in the wilderness waiting to die, an angel appears and tells Hagar to go back to that miserable, abusive, unjust situation. But he makes Hagar a promise. This is an odd promise at first glance. He promises that the child she’s carrying will be a son, and he will be ‘a wild donkey of a man.’
I remember as a kid driving to my uncle’s farm with my dad (I followed my dad everywhere). My dad and uncle kept beef cows – Charolais cattle to be exact (like the one in the picture above), they showed them (took them to fairs, etc.). In the front pasture was this big Charolais tied to a donkey. Now, Charolais cattle are BIG. Full-grown cows weigh in at 2000 lbs and the bulls get bigger than that. That cow (bull/yearling) made that donkey look downright small. The problem farmers face is that you can’t teach a beef calf to lead until it’s weaned, and it can be 400-600 lbs by the time it’s weaned.
The donkey was tied to the cow with a short rope. The rope was long enough for the donkey to graze and the cow to have it’s head up, but not much farther. I commented on how cruel it was to tie that poor donkey to that huge cow.
My dad said, “Don’t ever feel sorry for the donkey.”
Apparently this is an old trick farmers use (still in use today – it’s called a necking donkey) to teach a cow how to lead. There have been cows killed when paired with an untrained donkey, but a well-trained necking donkey is worth it’s own weight in gold. Farmers claim that a donkey can teach a 6-7 month old, a yearling or even a full-grown bull to lead in just two or three days, and neither animal is injured.
Remember, these cows are big enough that no human is going to force it do anything it doesn’t want to do. At shows, you need cattle docile enough to be led around the ring and judged.
Donkeys are known for their stubborness, sure, but they’re smart and strong. Super strong. The donkey will lean, pull, kick, bite, and beat on that cow if the rope gets even slightly taut. And the donkey doesn’t give up. If that cow wanted to eat or drink or do anything really, it learned pretty fast to never let the rope get tight and follow the donkey. Practices vary, but my uncle would leave the donkey with the cow for a couple of days, and after that the cow could be led pretty much anywhere without a problem.
I watched the donkey lift its head, take three steps and the big cow followed like an obedient dog.
Here’s a short video on the process. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3k5qwdK6K6g
As a servant girl with no voice, no protection, going back to a bad situation would’ve been a hard decision. But do you see what the angel was promising Hagar? Her son would be no man’s servant or slave, he’d be free. He would be intelligent and strong and yes, maybe a little stubborn. This was a son who could take care of her, and would never have the life she’d lived. The angel promised her son would have many sons.
Hagar called the place where she talked to the angel Beer-lahai-roi — the God who sees me.
What seems like a strange gift, maybe a curse, was actually a great blessing for her faith and trust. Sometimes what only feels like a curse is actually a blessing when you can see the big picture.
Have you ever been in a situation that seemed impossible, but in hind sight see how that situation taught you things, helped you grow? Ever been in a situation that felt like a curse but in the end turned out to be a blessing?