by David Sisler

The man was a distinguished professor, one of only a handful of academicians to be honored with his university's highest position. Sought out by students around the world, his magnificent mind was stolen from him by a mistake in the operating room. Gradually, ever so slowly, the brilliant intellect faded.

One winter Wednesday, a student, hired to help the professor and his wife, came to take the professor for a haircut. The old man's body, like his mind, was no longer as nimble as it once had been, and the simple task of dressing for the cold New England weather took almost 30 minutes. The student drove the professor into town, parked the car, and the two trudged up the snowy sidewalk to the barbershop, only to find it closed. Without a word, the old man turned around, walked back to the car and waited while the younger man opened the door and prepared him for the ride back home.

"You're back early," the professor's wife said, "and you didn't get a haircut."

"The barbershop was closed," the student said.

"I didn't know it was closed on Wednesday," the professor's wife said.

"I did," said the professor.

"You went to all of that trouble to get ready and go and you knew it was closed on Wednesday," she asked.

"I didn't know it was Wednesday," the professor said.

Can you imagine what it would be like to have a mental block, a blind spot, that would allow you to remember that the barbershop was closed on Wednesday, but you had no concept of whether or not it was Wednesday? Can you imagine the frustration of having such a blind spot where once you saw so clearly?

Being able to see partially when we ought to see fully is common to all of us.

Maybe you can understand the excitement, and the subsequent disappointment of a man who thought he was about to receive an unexpected windfall. A woman sent a newspaper clipping to Pastor Ben Haden in Chattanooga. The article headlined "Are you heirs of this unclaimed property?"

"I hope it is a large sum of money," the woman wrote. "Reply immediately to the state capitol and identify yourself. Oh, I hope you will be comfortable!"

Ben got right on the phone and called "Unclaimed Personal Property."

A clerk asked several questions and then said, "I guess the property is yours. If you can produce some identification, we will turn it over to you."

"Can you tell me how much is involved?" Ben asked.

"It is a check," the woman said, "an undelivered check from the power company for $2.26."

Ben said he smiled, but not very broadly.

The Apostle Paul would have understood both the blind spot and the disappointment.

One moment he was riding high, carrying official warrants to arrest Christians. The next moment he was lying face down in the sand. One moment he was master of all he saw. The next moment he was blind, depending on someone else to guide him. One moment he was his own man, following his own course. The next moment he was being goaded by the Lord Jesus Christ, to follow a path he would never voluntarily have chosen for himself.

A goad was a sharp stick used to break an ox to the yoke, to keep him on course. When he wanted to kick up his heels and go his way, the oxherd jabbed him with the goad, sometimes gently, sometimes harshly, in order to get him back on track. Otherwise, the ox would never know discipline.

I have no concept of what the professor experienced. I have never known the excitement of believing that I was about to receive "a fortune" only to learn that the search cost more than the prize. But I do know what it means to be goaded by God. It is God's way of pointing us in the right direction. It is His way of keeping us on the right track. It is His way of directing us away from hell, which we seem so naturally to choose, and directing us towards heaven, for which His Son died.

If you claim His name but you have never thought about the blind spots or the goads, it is time you did. If you feel the goad, and, in spite of the sting, it encourages you, that is the Lord.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 5/2/98

Copyright 1998 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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