This is an old Portuguese story:
There was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all for the beautiful white horse he owned. Even the king coveted his treasure. People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?” The man was poor and the temptation was great, but he never sold the horse.
One morning the horse was missing from the stable. All the village came to see the old man. “You old fool,” they scoffed. “We told you that someone would steal your horse. You are so poor, how could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”
The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know, the rest is judgement. How can you know if I’ve been cursed or not? How can you judge?”
The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed to know what’s happened here. The fact that your horse is gone is a curse..”
The old man spoke again, “All I know is that the stable is empty and the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?”
The people of the village laughed. They had always thought the man to be a fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. Instead, he was a poor woodcutter, living hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.
After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen, he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke, “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”
The man responded, “Again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? If you read only one page, how can you judge the whole book? All you have is a fragment! Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t know.
“Maybe the old man is right,” they said. But down deep they believed he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.
The old man had a son, and only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgements.
“You were right,” they said. “The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.”
The old man spoke again, “Don’t go so far in your judgements. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment of the whole.”
A few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded because he was injured. The enemy was strong and the people feared they would never see their sons again. Once again, they gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. “You were right, old man,” they wept. “God knows you were right. This proves it. Your son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”
The old man spoke again, “Why do you always draw conclusions? No one knows. Say only this: Your sons went to war, and mine did not. No one is wise enough to know if it is a blessing or a curse. Only God knows.”
(from Calm My Anxious Heartby Linda Dillow. Translated from the Portuguese, Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm)
I read this story as a part of a Bible study I’m doing, and after I did, I realized how many times I judge whether or not the circumstances in my life are “blessings or curses”. The economy? The unknown? My health? Miscarriage? Problems with/in family? Issues with friends? I always judge based on my emotional response to what has happened. And, while I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with being emotional, to be controlled by them is wrong.
I need to be happy with what I know. I know: God loves me. My husband loves me. I have great family. I have a great church. I have wonderful friends. I have a house with heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. I have clothes to wear. My children are healthy. And, I could go on and on…
If I look back at circumstances I have thought to be “curses” in my life, I can see where God used the circumstance to work for the good. That doesn’t mean that they were easy to deal with at the time, but by going through them I have learned to trust more. Too bad I can’t be better at practicing it ALL the time! I think my life would be much less stressful if I would only focus on what I know to be true, rather than conjecture.
So… that’s all for today. I know this is stinkin’ long… but the story just affected me, and I wanted to be able to record it.