that donkey will bite you

Kids don't listen the first time. At least, not mine. I mean, they come the first time you say, "Want a snack?" but they certainly don't hear you say, "Don't hit your brother" and file that in the permanent log. That's the thing you repeat a thousand times.

We were at a petting zoo recently with my family. The kids were feeding this sweet old donkey (through a fence) -- kernels of corn right out of their hands. Excitement! But then the corn ran out. A youthful member of our party put his hand back through the fence. I cautioned him, "Buddy, don't put your hand through the fence anymore, the donkey will think you have food and bite you." Then I walked on. From behind me, I heard my sister say, "Honey, did you hear that? Don't put your hand in there, or the donkey will bite you." Moments later, she came to join me. I turned, exasperated, when I heard my other sister saying, "Don't put your hand through the fence or the donkey will bite you!" A moment later, I heard screams, shrieks, and panic that you'd expect from a four-year-old child who'd just had his hand bitten by a donkey.

Sigh.

It's hard to find compassion in those moments. (Somewhere, a really good mom would offer to kiss it, but that's pretty much making out with a donkey... so I vote no.)

Sarcasm aside, though, what are the things God repeats to me? I'm his child. And I'm the worst: petulant, ungrateful, disobedient, forgetful. And yet He patiently repeats Himself to me.

Here's what He's saying to me lately:

Do. Not. Be. Afraid.

The Bible says it 70 times, apparently. And yet, I'm afraid. I really am. I'm afraid because somehow, despite a perfect track record, I worry that God won't come through for me.  

We go to court again on Tuesday. And I'm afraid. The unknown is scary, but the future is already known (planned, ordained) by the One who loves us most.

So I guess He'll go on repeating it to me: Kelley, do not be afraid.

I'll hear Him saying "do not be afraid" when friends text me that they're praying for us. 

I'll hear Him saying "do not be afraid" when I kiss my boy goodnight. 

I'll hear Him saying "do not be afraid" when a song comes on Word-FM at just the right moment. 

I'll hear Him saying "do not be afraid" when I pray and there isn't a still, small voice or even a wind, an earthquake, or a fire... But there is a weird feeling when I'm able to swallow, and my palms are dry, and my heart is beating a normal cadence and I do close my eyes and drift to sleep. Because at that moment, the donkey didn't bite me.