What the Farmer Said
A farmer had a horse that he depended on to work his farm, but one day the horse ran away into the hills. The farmer’s neighbors came by to comfort him in his time of bad luck. But the farmer said, “Who knows?”
A short while later, the horse unexpectedly returned leading a herd of wild horses that quickly took to the sheltering farm. The neighbors heard about this and visited the farmer to congratulate him on his good fortune. But the farmer said, “Who knows?”
One day the farmer’s son tried to break one of the wild horses and broke his own leg instead. This time the neighbors came to console the farmer for his bad, bad luck. And again the farmer said, “Who knows?”
That same week, an army mobilizing for rebellion came through the village to recruit every able-bodied young man. Seeing the farmer’s son with his broken leg, the officers passed him by. The neighbors were amazed at the farmer’s good luck and told him so. But, as always, the farmer said, “Who knows?”
Author Edwin H. Friedman believes a “non-anxious presence” is essential to true leadership. Jesus personifies the non-anxious leader in the gospel story of his calming the sea (Matt. 8:23–27, Mark 4:36–41, Luke 8:22–25). In a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee with his disciples one night, Jesus is physically exhausted and falls asleep. But an intense storm soon arises, and when Jesus continues to sleep, his terrified disciples shake him awake. “Master, don’t you care that we’re drowning?” Jesus extends his own calm to the storm; the waves and winds die. Then Jesus looks at his astonished disciples and says, “Why were you afraid?”
Whether a ragged band of disciples or General Motors, when conflicts and demanding circumstances arise, a leader’s unthreatened demeanor affects everyone else. A leader’s equanimity frees others to listen, to learn (of course, calming winds and waves is a spectacular object lesson), and to take necessary action. A leader’s calm opens mental room for people to deal with the situation at hand.
In the storms that hit us, how do we ordinary mortals model that steady farmer? One answer is to practice the presence of God, to invite God into our daily lives. We clear the debris that prevents us from listening and being in his presence daily. Psalm 62 says, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”
And where that will take us? Who knows?