The Parable of the Circuit Rider and the Widow

Once upon a time, just after the Great War, a Circuit Rider in West Virginia visited a woman he found ill in bed. Her four sons had all died in the mines in the last four years.  And then word came that her husband had just died in a mine collapse.

The Circuit Rider remembered Job. He asked the widow if she fretted about such things.

“Oh, no!” she started. “How can I fret when–” But the widow stopped. She knew what she should say, the pious thing to say. She knew what the pastor wanted to hear; she had heard him preach endurance, longsuffering, and gratitude. And trusting God in everything.  But the widow read her Bible, too.

She said, “I’m sorry, Reverend, but I do fret. Didn’t the good Lord ask, What do you mean, beating my people to pieces, and grinding the faces of the poor? Didn’t the Psalmist cry out, How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?”

The Circuit Rider thought of Christ on the cross.

“Reverend, is it right to forget the laborer, and pervert justice for any of the afflicted? Has not the Lord commanded us: Open thy mouth in the cause of all such as are unable to speak for themselves? Open thy mouth and judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy?”

The Circuit Rider thought of Orange Scott.

“Reverend, isn’t there something you can do?”

After a moment the woman looked away and fell silent. The Circuit Rider remained silent, moved– but not knowing what to say. After several moments, the woman spoke.

“Reverend, I been takin’ a likin’ your preachin’, I surely have. But lately the talk of that union man is makin’ a whole lot of sense to me.”

The Circuit Rider was thankful to be distracted from his confused concern. “That union man is a Bolshevik and a godless anarchist. You need to stay  away  from him.  No good can come from that trouble-making agitator. Only evil will come from that union man and his ilk.”

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
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3 Responses to The Parable of the Circuit Rider and the Widow

  1. Ed Folkwein says:

    Silence is golden. Preacher was doing fine until he couldn’t keep quiet. The lady was sorting all out for herself. Then the preacher interrupted. Hmmm, how many times have I spoken when it would have been much better to listen and not comment, just be present. The Holy Spirit can cover the rest of the bases.


  2. Cat Janson says:

    When we find ourselves unable to justify our stand on something it is so easy to turn and point out something bad that someone else is doing. In this case it seems the Union man may have different reasons for it, but he was following Christ more than the circit rider.


  3. I’m sure, it’s very good, but could do with some context. Who or what is Orange Scott? What is a Circuit Rider? Is he the same person as the Reverend? Is the union man something to do with the American Civil War, or are we talking union as in trade unions (which makes more sense with eth work place accidents, but the context of Civil war makes me think it’s the other). And why would a minister be against something that protects the vulnerable?
    Bit confused. Sorry


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