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Some of you may have seen the joke that circulated this week on e-mail that tries to explain why Moses and the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years. The punch line of the e-mail read, "Even then, men would not stop for directions."

While this may not really explain the real reason why the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, I think there is some truth to this e-mail. After all the pressure of public opinion can be overpowering. And many of us have at one time or another spent time worrying how other people might see us. Instead of stopping and asking for directions and having to admit that we are uncertain or confused, we push on, and hope no one notices how lost we really are.

Our fear of being ridiculed is greater than our fear of being wrong. As a society we have become convinced that as long as we have the approval of others, it does not really matter how far off course we are.

One of the best illustrations of this is the story about an Old Man and his Son who were walking home from town one day with their donkey.

As they made their way home, their neighbors began to laugh at them and asked themselves, "Why are both of them walking? One of them should be riding the donkey." After much ridicule the man placed his son on the donkey and they continued on their way.

But soon their neighbors began to criticize them again saying, "Look at that! The boy is making that poor old man walk while he rides the donkey! Why doesn’t the boy get off that donkey and let the old man ride for awhile?"

Hearing this, the boy dismounted, and the old man got on the donkey. But before long the neighbors again began to criticize them and wondered out loud, "Why is that man riding the donkey and making that helpless boy walk? What kind of man is he?"

Hearing this, the father reached down and picked up his son and they both rode the donkey and continued their way home. But the neighbors again complained and said to one another, "Look at that poor donkey, having to carry two people on it back! Why don’t they give that poor animal a break and get off of it before the animal gets hurt."

In desperation the father and son did the only thing left for them to do. They picked up the donkey and carried it on their backs the rest of the way home.

(SOURCE: from a sermon by Paul Zwarich, "Come to Me", 7/1/08)

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