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The Old Man

by Father Jonathan Atchley

There was an old man sitting in Town Square. Chancing by, I paused to listen to his engaging insights.


He spoke compellingly: “…the wicked man stands before me…I am dumb, silent, still. His prosperity stirred my grief.” He went on to address agonies commonly experienced by many, the ongoing injustices in life. Most of the passersby ignored him, and a few even huffed at his preaching though they failed to hear his message of how to successfully endure overwhelming problems.


He rebuked those who ignored him with sharp words: “many will bow out and fail to engage. They fail to see that withdrawing from struggles does little good; ignoring news is only another way of extending present injustices while retreating from them.” His insights stung me, because I can be overwhelmed with dread before retreating from struggles with evil. So I asked: “what do you suggest instead, friend?”


He replied, “I know how fleeting is life.” Time is short. Wisdom can be found in knowing our end and purpose here. Endless struggles to achieve good are not enough to satisfy one’s deep desire; hearts that burn up over injustice can also burn out.


He suggested the one thing to do is to prudently look for peace: “submit to God; hope in him. And offer him your prayers.”


“Really?” I asked. “Is that enough? To trust God with our miseries and wait for a way out?”


“What else is there?” he queried. “We remain silent because all of this is His Doing. We are crushed by his blows for the injustices of our sins. Hope in this life must extend beyond the grave, because many never see the justice they desire until then.”


His insight struck me as odd yet somehow satisfying. We talked about how we are “passing guests” in this life, "pilgrims like our fathers who hope in a power greater than us.” His conclusion was always the same: "trust in the goodness of God. Thank Him forever because this is his doing.”


My bus came and I had to move on; places to go and things to do, you know how it goes. I wonder whether the old man is still around. I haven’t seen him, but think on what he said: "much is beyond our ability to change." How he thought that we ought to look to the One who cares for us, even when we fail to care for ourselves. "That," he exclaimed, "is prudence."


Some say you can find such wisdom in the Psalms--which is pretty much saying the same thing, because the old man's name is David.


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Thanks David, for the Psalms. Thanks Father, for the article. Good as usual. And, thanks for the cartoon. I laughed. First laugh all day!

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