As Stubborn As…

Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control. Psalm 32:9 NLT

“Gitty up” meant nothing when my great uncle said it.

My great-grandfather died when my grandfather was twelve years old, leaving my grandfather as the man of the house to run the family farm. One younger brother and several sisters remained at home, and his mother needed his help. But at twelve years of age, even in a time period when young children did adult work, my grandfather couldn’t run the farm alone.

My grandfather’s favorite uncle, Ransom, agreed to help. Plowing fields with mules could be gratifying or aggravating. For Uncle Ransom, it was the latter. Perhaps his temperament didn’t jive well with the mule’s personality. Maybe he used words they didn’t appreciate or gave commands with tones they detested. And according to my grandfather, he did.

When Uncle Ransom plowed, the mule either balked or plowed a crooked row—neither of which pleased my uncle. But with my grandfather, things differed. He had a pleasant voice and a kind demeanor. When he commanded the mules, they did as he asked: gittied up and plowed straight.

The psalmist prefaces his command with a promise from the Lord: “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8). But often I’m like the senseless horse or stubborn mule when God tries to guide me—even though His words aren’t harsh or His commands burdensome.

In spite of our stubbornness—like the mule’s under my uncle’s direction—God wills to guide us along the best pathway. The same way my grandfather wanted the mule to travel. God leads this way because He loves us and has our best interests at heart. My grandfather did for the mule as well. Had the mule balked or plowed a crooked row, my grandfather or uncle would have strapped him. My uncle would have out of anger, but my grandfather would have out of love.

We are God’s masterpieces, capable of great evil or great good. He will lead us to accomplish the latter if we’ll place ourselves under His watchful care. And He will lovingly prod and guide us along with kindness and compassion, as my grandfather did the mule.

God also has the power to lead us along pathways that enhance the good parts of our nature. He created us in His image, and, though sin has marred that image, He can still form us into creations who mimic His attitudes and actions if we allow Him. He is an all-powerful God, able to do supernatural things—among them, changing our stubborn wills. As my grandfather brought out the best in the mule, God will in us when we allow Him.

And God wants to lead us along these wonderful pathways. He is a God of love who adores us with all of His heart and who wants us to love Him in return with our whole hearts. He doesn’t enjoy seeing us suffer unnecessarily because we have strayed from the paths of righteousness, just as my grandfather didn’t enjoy watching Uncle Ransom abuse the mule.

Don’t be as stubborn as a mule. Listen to God. He’ll take you down life’s best pathways.

Martin Wiles

Martin lives in Greenwood, SC, and is the Managing Editor for Christian Devotions (, the Senior Editor for Inspire-a-Fire, and a Proof Editor for Courier Publishing. He is an author, English teacher, minister, and freelance editor. He is the founder of Love Lines from God and the author of six books, including his most recent, A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapes for a Noisy World. He has also been published in numerous publications. He and his wife are parents of two and grandparents of three. He can be contacted at

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