Balaam’s Ass

Chris lived on the street. Most every day, he could be found hanging out at Turtle Island, a coffee shop in the artsy district of Indianapolis. Disheveled and dirty, his mismatched clothes seemed like they had fallen on him by accident. A jagged scar ran across his cheek and he could be recognized, a mile away, by his lilting gait.

When I met Chis, he could barely communicate. His speech came out in a twisted rush, a slurry of disjointed words that struggled to form a single thought. Whether it was drugs and alcohol, or the result of some past brain injury, I had never heard him utter a recognizable sentence.

One evening, as I sat at the Turtle Island counter, reading the Word of God, I noticed Chris had perched himself on the stool next to me. I often sat in the restaurant, quietly reading, praying and watching the endless flow of customers as they flowed through the door.

That night, I was reading about the perfect timing of God; how Jesus was sent by Yahweh “in the fulness of time.” I was puzzled. What did it mean? Why didn’t God just send Jesus to Adam’s grandchildren? Why did Messiah come at that exact time? Would it have mattered if He had come later? God lives outside of time, so why couldn’t Yahweh have done something else. What did it mean that Jesus “was slain before the foundation of the earth?”

As I sat in silence, deep in thought, I could see Chris as he placed his coffee cup carefully onto the counter and turned to face me. Looking up, a bit disturbed at the sudden distraction, I waited as Chris’ mouth opened for the inarticulate nonsense that was sure to follow.

What came out was sheer brilliance. Chris commenced to give the most nuanced analysis of the birth of Christ that I had ever heard! He carefully answered all of my unspoken questions, speaking flawlessly as I stared in amazement. His words, powerful and full of authority, painted a clear picture of the heart and purposes of God. As if he was somehow listening to my thoughts, Chris led me through the scriptures, speaking of the ancient Jewish prophets, the men that walked with Jesus and the Spirit of Yahweh that was poured out upon the people of this earth. Then, Chris swiveled back to face the counter, picked up his coffee, and shut his mouth. For a moment I was speechless.

A dozen questions burst out of my mouth. Chris totally ignored me, giving only a few guttural responses to my torrent of excited comments. I never heard him utter an intelligible thought again. At the end of the summer, Chris moved on and I haven’t heard from him since.

Over the years, I have had many questions for God. But no matter who is talking, I now listen with expectation, hoping to hear the Living God of Israel emerge from the least expected place. Messiah said He could make the rocks cry out loud. Or, He could simply choose an ass.