My friend Cheryl has three hobbies she’s passionate about: playing with her cat, Frisky; listening to music by Bebo Norman; and going to the doctor.
Cheryl was born with an extra 21st chromosome, commonly known as Down syndrome. She is also one of the most social, personable individuals I know. To know her is to be her friend. The moment you walk in the room, her whole face lights up in a huge grin. Not content to just sit next to you, she’ll likely take your hand and, with that wide smile of hers, say, “I like you.”
So I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she enjoys visits to the doctor. After all, everyone in the office knows her name, gives her attention, and ultimately has her best interests at heart. Although some parts of the visit may be painful, she knows that all this is necessary so she’ll feel better in the long run.
I was thinking about Cheryl when I came across these words in the last chapter of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon’s final collection of writings:
The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep.
Words of wisdom, as the wise Solomon knew, can be as painful as a cattle prod. Having someone speak truth into our lives can be as piercing, as uncomfortable, as being corralled by a shepherd, given a shot by a doctor.
Unlike Cheryl, I don’t like doctor visits. More often than not, I’d prefer to remain in blissful ignorance. If there’s no diagnosis, then there won’t be any uncomfortable prodding. And perhaps most of all, there’s no need for change.
I’m afraid I’m often the same way when it comes to words of truth and accountability too. I prefer to stay in my place of comfortable oblivion rather than subject myself to the cattle prod of wisdom.
Not long ago Cheryl had surgery to alleviate some chronic back pain she’d been dealing with. While she was recovering, a relative told her, “Now, Cheryl, you need to make sure you take care of yourself so you don’t have to have another surgery.”
A look of sheer disappointment fell over Cheryl’s face. She went into the corner by herself for a few minutes, arms folded as she pondered. Finally she returned to the living room, where her family was gathered.
“I thought about it,” she said, “and I decided I can get another surgery if I want to.”
Oh, Cheryl, if only I were more like you—more open to the cattle prod. I have a feeling I’d be healthier…and a whole lot wiser too.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.