Max Lucado (In the Eye of the Storm)
The Old Man and the White Horse
Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although
poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse.
Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never
been seen before – such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.
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 he found that the horse was not in his stable. All
the village came to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we
told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that
you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever
protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have
sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted.
No amount would have been to high. 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 judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know?
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. The simple 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 can see is a
fragment. Who can say what will come next?”
The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was
crazy. They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn’t, he
would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead,
he was a poor woodcutter, and old man still cutting firewood and
dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived 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, “Once 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? You read only one page of a book.
Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of one
phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?”
“Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one
word. All you have is one 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.”
“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they
said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They
knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned.
With a little work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold
for much money.
The old man had a son, an 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 judgments.
“You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right.
The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse.
Your only son has broken both 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. “You people are obsessed with
judging. Don’t go so far. 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. Life comes in fragments.”
It so happened that 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. Once again the people gathered
around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been
taken. There was little chance that they would return. The
enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They
would never see their sons again.
“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. “It is impossible to talk with
you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say
only this. Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No
one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough
to know. Only God knows.”