The Definition of Insanity
Acts 26:14 It is hard for you to kick against the goads.
As we have seen what our dog will eat, we tend think of him as profoundly stupid. He can learn though. When we take him for walks, he takes the leash in his mouth and tries to yank it out of our hands. As this game is tiring, we have learned a way to use the leash as a harness that squeezes his belly a little when he pulls against it. He dislikes this, so when he is harnessed, he stops the game of pulling at the leash. Now, if he starts, all we need to do is ask, Harness? He sits down, opens his mouth and drops the leash.
He learns quicker than me. I have, so many times, read passages which I felt applied to others, only to realize that there is yet another defect I did not realize I had. So it was yesterday, as I read this passage about Paul, kicking against the goads. Paul, in describing his conversion, told of Jesus words to him, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.
The goad, apparently, was a long sharp stick used to prod a farmer’s oxen along in the field. When oxen did not want to do what oxen were supposed to do, the farmer would poke the oxen, using pain to goad him along. To kick against the goad then, would be foolish as it would only increase the pain felt by the animal. To kick against the goad repeatedly, would constitute stupidity or insanity. Performing the same defiant act over and over, repeatedly inflicting pointless pain on one’s self would indicate a severe mental defect.
When I read this passage yesterday, I immediately thought of those who have an inherent need to rebel against authority. In treatment, there were those who just needed to be defiant, even when it had no point. If someone kindly asked him to go to lunch, the rebel would not move. He could be starving, but still, if someone in authority asked him to go, he would refuse. He just had a need to resist. To me, this seemed miserable. I did not understand it as it is not a defect I have. I never kick against the goads, right?
As usual, the verse stuck in my head and I had to think on it. I have started to learn that when I see a defect that I think only others have, I just have not thought long enough about it. I realized that all of my self-inflicted pain has come from kicking against the goads. Every time I used, thinking it would bring me pleasure, I knew the pain that would follow. I knew the misery I was going to cause, but I did it anyway, repeatedly. Every time I eat something I do not need, increasing my weight, I display a profound inability to learn from my past destructive behavior. Every time I go my own way, pursuing the defective desires of my flesh, I am kicking against the goads.
To this, Jesus seems to have sympathy. He did not ask Paul why he was so stupid. He just acknowledged that this was a tough way to live. It must be hard for you. Follow me. Stop inflicting pain on yourself.
It is insanity to do the same thing over and over, expecting different results. If I have become weary of my grief, like my dog, I must learn to stop causing myself pain. In my ruin, Jesus says to me, I can see the misery of following yourself. Why not follow me instead? Stop kicking against the goads.