There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day, his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe, maybe not,” the farmer replied. The next morning, the horse returned bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful!” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe, maybe not,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe, maybe not,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe, maybe not,” said the farmer.
I totally believe that everything happens for a reason and everything is as it should be. In other words, everything is in Divine Order. That’s a hard concept to understand…until you do. When I look back on everything that has happened to me in my life, I can say, “Oh, now I see why that happened!” Because of everything I’ve been through, even those things where I didn’t think it could get much worse, I now see that because I went through those experiences, it made me a stronger and better person. It sure didn’t feel like it at the time when I was going through the ‘heavy-duty-life-doo.’ But over the years, I’ve learned to hang in there because I knew that at some point, things would get better.
What’s great about the above story is that the farmer knew the great secret of the ages, and nothing that happened to him or his family, ever got him riled. He knew there was a bigger picture. He trusted that everything would be okay. And it was. How many of us can do that? I can most of the time, but I have my moments where I go into deep fear just like anyone else. When I can take a deep holy breath and go into that place of profound, spiritual trust, everything works out just fine even though it may not humanly seem like it at the time.
There are so many things we can go through in life that can either make us or break us. Why some people are able to overcome and others can’t is a mystery. There is no easy answer. Some may think there is. But there isn’t. There are too many other factors, some deep within someone’s subconscious. We never know why people are the way they are. Until we have “walked a mile in their shoes,” we don’t know. People grow up becoming products of their past experiences, their upbringing, environment, belief systems, and so on. What’s more, all this tends to become a person’s identity. We are a result of the choices we make, and if you think about it, most of those choices were our thoughts. There’s a saying that says, “It’s not what happens to you that matters, but how you handle what happens.” Another one I really like is, “Nothing has meaning except for the meaning that you give to it.”
Just like the farmer above, he attached his own meaning to what happened to him. When his horse ran away, he could have been upset. If it would have been me, I would have been devastated. The farmer could have been upset when his son broke his leg. Instead, he just sat back and waited, and everything worked itself out.
There are countless people across the world, who have gone through the most horrific experiences, but they persevered, overcame, and grew up to become happy, highly successful people. I would highly recommend reading autobiographies of some of these people. One that really made a huge difference in my life is “Left to Tell” by Immaculee Ilibagiza. She is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, and when I read what she went through, I don’t know how she could have come through it sane. But she did. When I think that I’m having a rough day, I think of her and realize that I’m really okay.
As we go through life and when we’re going through our stuff, let’s challenge ourselves to try to sit back, take a deep holy breath, and trust that there is a bigger picture. I’d like to leave you with a few more of my favorite sayings: “You can either be a victim of your past, or a hero of your future.” “Are you a worrier, or a warrior?” And, “All is well with my soul.”
(Published in the Cookeville, TN Herald Citizen newspaper on January 6, 2012.)