First, “Let me tell you 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,' the scoffed. 'We old 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 can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?'
“The people of the village laughed. They ahd 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 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 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 has 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 judgements.
“'You were right,' they said. '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, '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 were 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 is wise enough to know if it is a blessing or a curse. Only God knows.'
“The old woodcutter was content with what he knew and not disturbed by what he couldn't understand.”
And now for my other story...
There once was a boy and a girl who met at a Christian college in Tennessee. They were young but they decided to get married that summer. Neither of them were finished with their education. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
Just a few short months after they were married they discovered that they were expecting their first child. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
The college that they were attending lost it's regional accreditation and it was discovered that the teachers that graduated the year that the girl did would be the first to graduate without state certification to teach. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
Their firstborn, a son, came and was adored by all. The grandparents on both sides loved him, especially since he was the first for all of them. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
The boy and his wife along with their son soon moved to a small house in a nicer part of the city that they lived in. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
There were complications with a heart catheterization that the girl's mother had. As a result the girl, along with her husband and small son, moved to New York to help out while her mother spent 3 months in the hospital and her last 18 months in a nursing home unable to use her arms or legs and with very limited speech. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
The mother passed away and the boy needed to finish his education but few colleges would accept credits from an unaccredited college. One college that would offered a scholarship to make it cheaper than another college that would so the boy took his wife and two children and one on the way to that college in rural New York. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
The boy graduated from college taking nearly all of his science classes in two years and applied to medical school. He was not accepted to any of the schools that he applied to so he moved with his wife and four children to his wife's hometown where tenants had just moved out of an apartment owned by her grandparents in the middle of the night. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
The boy substitute taught while he re-studied for his MCAT exam. After getting his improved score the boy and girl decided that he should re-apply to American medical schools. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
Unable to find a job in the town where they were living they family of six moved to a city an hour away where the boy had gotten a job at a hospital. He got two interviews at medical schools and was put on waiting lists at both places. Ultimately rejection letters came from both schools. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
After seeking direction from God and discovering that his application to the medical school in the Caribbean was lost they decided that the boy should re-apply to American schools and they sent out 16 applications. The boy got but one interview that time but soon thereafter got news that he was accepted at that school. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
The family packed to move to the new city two hours away. They moved into a sublet near campus assuming that they would be able to find more permanent housing during the two months that they were there. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
The boy and girl were pre-approved to buy a home and started to look for one to get the $8000 tax credit but time had run out on their sublet. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
The young family packed their belongings and put them into storage and lived out of their van at the homes of friends for 2 ½ months while making offers on 5 different houses that fell through and then finally deciding to rent. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
They finally moved into an apartment that exceeded their expectations both in the low price and amenities with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, plenty of living space and free laundry. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
The family hoped that they would be able to stay in that apartment for all of their time in that city but the landlord informed them that he had come into some money and was going to gut the place and move back into it with his family and that they needed to be out by the end of September at the latest. Was it a blessing or a curse? We know only a fragment.
There are so many chapters in the story that were skipped over and the next part of the story is unknown but I am glad that I know Who does. Epictetus once said, “I am always content with that which happens, for I think that which God chooses is better than what I choose.”
Glenn prefaced telling me the news that we have to move again this summer with “We have another horse situation.” If you have known me long or followed my blog you know how much I don't like moving and that we are in our 15th place in 10 years. (We have decided to ignore our homeless time of last fall in our count because we really don't know how to count it.) I walked myself over to my fridge and read Ella Spee's Perscription for Contentment:
* Never allow yourself to complain about anything – not even the weather [or having to move again]
* Never picture yourself in any other circumstance or someplace else
* Never compare your lot with another's.
* Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise
* Never dwell on tomorrow – remember that tomorrow is God's not ours.
And then I read my favorite quote by Andrew Murray: “In time of trouble, say, 'First, He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place; in that I will rest.' Next, 'He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.' Then say, 'He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.' And last, say, 'In His good time He can bring me out again. How and when He knows.' Therefore, say, 'I am here (1) by God's appointment, (2) in His keeping, (3) under His training, (4) for his time.”
I guess I am glad I am going through Linda Dillow's Calm My Anxious Heart again. Contentment is still something that I am striving after and have not completely attained. I got the horse story and the above quotes all from that book and I would highly recommend it! Some more thoughts on contentment from that book:
“Our thought life, not our circumstances determines whether we are content.”
“Are you going to judge God by the circumstances you don't understand or judge the circumstances in light of the character of God?”
“If we are going to find contentment in the midst of trial and uncertainty we must accept our situation as being purposely allowed into our lives by a personal and loving God.”
And lastly this prayer from Betty Scott Stam, martyred missionary to China, “Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and sela me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, work out They whole will in my life at any cost.” In the front of my Bible I signed my name under that on 1/27/08.
I just jumped back to the end of Habakkuk where my list of “thoughs” are (homework for the “Trusting God with the whys” chapter for this week). I made a list back in April of 2007 when I first read the book and then again last April. Two of the “thoughs” have been answered – God got Glenn into medical school and He provided a place for us to live 6/1/09. Most of them have not and may never be. I laughed as I looked at the last “though” I wrote last April “Though we may move many times in med school.” I had no idea what this past year would entail but my God is faithful and He faithfully provided just what we needed when we needed it. It is a journey of faith He has us on. Why it involves packing and unpacking so much I really don't know but I know that I can trust Him and that He is going to provide another place for us to live and He is going to teach us more in the days, weeks, months, and years to come Lord willing should the Lord tarry. I guess I will close with this “Though..... Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” Hab. 3:17-19.