Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Carrot and stick

Last week I went to a ploughing match where tractors and, more interestingly for me, shire horses showed their skills in ploughing. I saw what I had not seen before- donkeys ploughing. Shire horses keep on a pretty straight course and only really need steering and ‘woa Dobbin’ to turn at the end of a furrow. Donkeys I noticed were not so co- operative and had to be guided the whole way along the furrow which is probably why they are not used much in ploughing.

I thought that for Christians it is lucky that God does not have to direct us in the same way.

We do not usually have to be prodded or hit with a whip. We can be directed by God in all sorts of ways, mostly gentle, and some quite mysterious and unexpected.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not keep with you. Psalm 32 8/9

In 1491 a young Basque knight, Ignatius Loyola, lying injured in bed after a wound in battle and unable to move from his bed, began to discover and codify the way in which God communicates to us through our emotions and feelings. His writings became the Spiritual Exercises and became the foundation of what is known as spiritual direction.

Some believe that God only speaks to us through Scripture but Scripture itself talks of God talking through dreams, strange circumstances and the quiet voice as He did to Elijah. On one occasion He even communicated through a donkey ( Numbers 22.28 ) I suppose the trick is to be listening for His voice and be obedient then He won’t need to raise His voice.