Legend has it that in 1880, a drifter wandered into Marshall County, Tennessee, with a cow and four unusually bulgy-eyed goats. The man, John Tinsley, took his meals in the barn with his animals and claimed his cow was sacred. Locals quickly noted the goats had a peculiar habit of falling down whenever they were scared.
When Tinsley left town he took his cow and left the goats. They became known as Tennessee Fainting Goats. The goats have a nervous disorder called myotonia congenital that causes them to stiffen and fall over at the sight or sound of danger.
Faced with a barking dog, a threatening sound or a mischievous human yelling, “Boo!” the goats try to flee but find their leg muscles stiffen and they can’t run or even stand. They fall over on their backs and remain fully extended, like a cartoon animal playing dead. They are conscious the entire time, and the ordeal only lasts for a few seconds.
Before long, the animals were being sold throughout the South. At “goat-scaring parties,” guests would take turns sneaking up on the creatures and scaring them senseless.
Sheep and goat farmers quickly devised a more profitable way to use the goats. They would put a few of the goats in with their flocks of sheep. Then when a coyote or some other predator attacked the flock, the goats would faint and the sheep would run to safety. The flock was saved at the expense of the fainting goats.
When I ponder that situation I am reminded that Jesus called us sheep. We are the sheep of his pasture, Psalm 100:3. As sheep, we will encounter dangerous situations. Job loss. Health issues. Kid trouble. During those times the shepherd patiently calls us to follow him.
(John 10:27) “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
The safest place for any sheep is near the shepherd. But here’s the trouble. Fear locks me up. Fear is the eternal demon that whispers into the ear of every sheep: “You can’t do this. It’s too big for you. Don’t even try!” At that moment you have a choice. Listen to the fear and become a fainting goat. Or listen to the shepherd and stay a sheep.
Before you choose let me remind you, fainting goats are nearly extinct.
One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it. – Oswald Chambers,