Susan Sparks: Am I Gonna Ride This Thing Or Not?

As a little early holiday gift, I am sharing a chapter from my award-winning collection of holiday meditations,
Miracle on 31st Street: Grinch to Gratitude in 26 Days! 


(Excerpt from Miracle on 31st Street: Christmas Cheer Every Day of the Year -- Grinch to Gratitude in 26 Days!
By: Susan Sparks 2020)

There are a lot of things that the Bible doesn’t tell us.
For instance, what did Jesus do between the ages of twelve and thirty? 
Why did God create platypuses before people?
Or this question, with which I have struggled my entire adult life . . . 

What did Mary say the split second after Joseph told her that at nine months pregnant, she had to ride a donkey ninety miles up a 2500-foot mountain from Nazareth to Bethlehem in order to answer questions for a census guy?
While the Bible doesn’t tell us specifically, I don’t think God would mind if we read between the lines a little bit. In fact, in imagining what might have been said (and done), we may discover some important lessons of our own.
My best guess at what happened after Joseph’s shocking announcement? Mary turns, looks at the donkey, and thinks to herself, “Am I
gonna ride this thing or not?” In short, do I have a choice in this situation? 
We should ask ourselves the same question when faced with difficult circumstances. Sometimes the answers are crystal clear. 
For example, do I need to go to IKEA and wait in line for three hours to buy a bookshelf that will take seventeen hours to put together just because it will make my house look slightly more tidy when my relatives visit for thirty minutes?
Answer: No, I’m not riding this.
Do I need to get one more gift for cousin Lu
Lu because her stocking looks slightly thinner than cousin Ned’s? 
Answer: No, I’m not riding this.
Do I need to respond to that personal slight from my work colleague, friend, or family member?
Answer: No, I’m not riding this. (Just FYI, not everything requires our response.)

These are the easy situations, the ones in which we have full power to say “no.” 
But sometimes the answers are not so easy. Sometimes we are faced with situations completely out of our control. 
Do I have to face down this cancer diagnosis? 
Answer: Yes, I have to ride this.
Do I have to deal with this grief after my loved one’s death?
Answer: Yes, I have to ride this.
Or for Mary, do I have to ride this donkey 90 miles up a 2500-foot mountain?
Answer: Yes, I have to ride this.
Once she realized she had to ride, Mary probably said a second thing to herself, “Better find some padding.” Maybe she put a blanket on the donkey, or perhaps she made Joseph shave a sheep to make her a fluffy pillow. Whatever it was, a little padding goes a long way to help a bumpy ride—for Mary and for us.
We can find padding in all sorts of places. One source is asking for outside help. There’s no shame in asking! In fact, when we reach out for assistance, it can be a gift to others, helping them to feel needed and useful.
Another good place to find padding is perspective. Ask yourself, what is the long view here? What truly matters to me? Keeping your gaze on the goal can help you see past the bumps on the road.
There is a third thing I’m sure happened on that journey (although again, scripture doesn’t say it): Mary prayed constantly. I’ve often wondered if that trip to Bethlehem marked the invention of the rosary because for every step the donkey took, Mary was probably counting the hairs on his neck, praying each time, “Have mercy.”
Sometimes we may feel that way, too. We hope and pray that every difficult step we take will be the last. We may even think we can’t go any further. But when we raise our voices in prayer like Mary did, every angel in heaven comes flying to our aid, and we access a power beyond our pain. 

There are things in this life over which we have no control—things that we simply have to get on and ride. But there is a silver lining: if we are riding, we are climbing. And every step we take is a step closer to Bethlehem. 

In the end, you never know what can come out of a difficult ride. Renewed hope? New life? Maybe even a Messiah.


Reposted from Susan's newsletter, Shiny Side Up! To connect with Susan, click here.