The Wood Cutter
( Max Lucado “ In the Eye of the Storm”)
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 it’s splendour, it’s majesty, it’s strength.
People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse in not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a person. How could I sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could I sell a friend?” The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.
One morning he found the horse was not in the 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 hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten what ever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now your horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”
The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only 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 the stable is empty, and the horse has gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it is 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 old man was crazy. They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived of the money. But instead, he was a poor 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 into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had bought 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 old 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 do not 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 a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?
Life is vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. 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.”
“May be the old man is right” they say to one another. So they say little. But deep down, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with the 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, 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 his 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 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 are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son has broken his legs. Who knows if it 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 a war against a neighbouring 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 for ever.”
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 this is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.
There was a carpenter in Galilee who said it best:“ Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”