Every morning I see him, alone in the mist and standing apart from the rest in the pasture at the end of our road. Watchful; almost aloof; like a sentry in his place when all is well. Always sniffing the air and listening for any sense of danger. Although his lines are tall and straight he is the most unlikely hero. He is a “guard donkey” and you will see him with cows or sheep throughout our mountains.
When I first noticed a donkey in a pasture with cows it seemed completely out of place until I learned why he was there. Even though the donkey isn’t really a friend to the cows and their calves, he is handy to have around because of his exceptional hearing (those ears!), keen sense of smell and aggressive disposition towards dogs, coyotes and foxes. When an intruder is detected the donkey will bray, bite, chase and kick as it protects its territory and, thus, the other animals in the pasture.
This picture of the guard donkey reminds me of so many real life situations. A pastor and his flock. A coach and his team. An officer and his men. But, on the most practical level it’s about friends. It’s about having someone in your life that cares enough to come running when you’re in danger. Someone who knows you well. Someone who is willing to say what needs to be said when you need to hear it. Stubborn; committed; intensely focused and sincere – all attributes of the guard donkey AND of a good, solid friend.
But most men live their lives alone. Oh sure, they have some friends, but few really know them well. And few would be willing to, or feel they have permission to, confront them if there were obvious or not-so-obvious things going on in their lives that ought to be addressed. These kind of relationships aren’t easy to build and, to be honest, sometimes they can be awkward and perhaps even confrontational. You have to get to know someone – really know them – before you are willing to “allow them” to speak into your life. But, I speak from experience when I say it’s worth the work to get there. I’m glad to say I have some guys like that in my life. Guys I could call in the dead of night. Guys who would be willing to be honest and stubborn enough to “kick my butt” if I needed it. In most cases, I’m “that guy” in their lives too. Sure sometimes that means I can seem more like a “jackass” than a guard donkey – but, as the writer of Proverbs says –
Proverbs 27:6 “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”
How about you? Do you have friends in your life you can count on to call you on “your stuff” and to bray and bite, chase and kick when you need it most?
If you don’t have a friend – then I suggest you learn to be a friend, but take it slow on that “jackass” thing until you’ve built some trust and understanding.