On the Saturday morning cartoons, Beth saw a show about a bunch of animals that took over a farm. In the show, the animals were always discussing strategy and politics just like people do.
After the show was over, Beth went to sit beside her mother who was doing some mending. "Mother, can animals talk?" Beth asked.
"They can if God wants them to," said Beth's mother as she mended some old underwear. "You know about the snake in the garden of Eden, but I can tell you another story about a talking animal."
And this is the story she told:
One day God came to Balaam and said, "If men come to get you, get up and go with them, but only say what I tell you to say."
In the morning, Balaam got up, put a saddle on his donkey, and went with the men. This made God mad.
While Balaam and two of her servants were riding their donkeys, an angel stood in the road to stop them. The donkey saw the angel standing with a sword in the road and walked into a field to keep from running into it.
Balaam hit the donkey to get her back on the road. But the angel stood in Balaam's way and there were walls to his right and left. When the donkey saw the angel, she ran into the wall and smooshed Balaam's foot against it so he hit her again.
The angel walked a bit and stood in a narrow place where the donkey wouldn't be able to turn at all. When the donkey saw the angel, she fell down. This made Balaam so mad that he hit the donkey with a stick.
Then God made the donkey talk and she said, "What did I do to you to make you hit me three times?"
Balaam answered, "You teased me! I wish I had a sword so I could kill you."
The donkey said, "Aren't I your donkey which you rode ever since I was yours? Did I ever want to ride you?"
"Well, no," said Balaam.
Then God let Balaam see the angel standing in the road with a sword. Balaam bowed his head and fell flat on his face.
The angel said, "Why did you hit your donkey three times? Look, I was trying to stop you because you weren't doing what I wanted you to do. Your donkey saw me and got you out of the way. If she hadn't, I would have killed you and let her live."
Balaam said to the angel, "I did a bad thing. I didn't know that you were in the road. If you want, I'll go back."
And the angel said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but only say what I tell you to say."
And that's just what Balaam did.
Beth thought about this for a moment. "Well, Balaam wasn't very surprised so he must have thought that there was nothing unusual about his donkey talking," said Beth.
"That's right, Dear One," said her mother. "What else did you learn?"
Beth thought a moment more. "I learned that when an animal does something that you don't want it to do, you should just let it do it and not punish it," she said. "You never know when it might be doing something strange as a sign from God!"
"That's why we never hit your puppy for piddling on the living room carpet," said Beth's mother.
Beth decided that she shouldn't ask why her mother was sewing closed the flies on her father's underwear, because that might be a sign from God, too.
Then Beth smiled and hugged her mother. All her questions had been answered.
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