Yesterday, I was hanging out in Bicentennial Park in downtown Nashville just listening to music and reading Proverbs. Pretty chill. I was reading Proverbs intentionally because I have read Ecclesiastes through several times this summer and have made Solomon my new life-hero; I wanted to read more about wisdom and the Proverbs are definitely chock full of those! I was encouraged by several verses, particularly those in Proverbs 3 and I wrote them down for good measure.
After my leisurely devotion time, I began to head back to my group. I was walking through the park, my big ole headphones serenading me with my favorite tunes, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a man sitting on a bench. We exchanged pleasantries and he introduced himself to me as John. We talked for a minute or two about the weather and such when he paused the conversation and said, "Heather, let me tell you something...".
He proceeded to tell me about how he grew up, how his mom was an alcoholic and he didn't really have a father figure around, but when he was young, an elderly neighbor took him under his wing and taught him to respect others and seek wisdom and understanding. He attributed his zeal and passion for life to this mentor and friend he respected so much! He told me how this gentleman taught him to work hard and respect those in authority, to be slow to anger and rich in love for others. John carried the wisdom that his mentor had instilled within him throughout his life. He told me that holding on to that wisdom had kept him safe, kept him out of bad situations and also allowed him to complete any task he put his hand to. He then quoted some verses from Proverbs - several of which I had just read minutes earlier!
I was really taken back by this. "Wow, you really remind me of Solomon", I said, "You are very wise". He presented me with a knowing, gentle smile and reached in to his pocket and took out his wallet. He explained how he had taken up a new hobby of making jewelry and selling it on the street. He then reached into his wallet and pulled out a small charm, took my hand, and placed a small, silver cross in my palm. "Here", he said. "This charm is for you. I don't have a chain for you to put it on, but I trust that you will find one. I want you to have this charm as a reminder to take wisdom and understanding with you wherever you go." I thanked him for the encouragement and told him I hoped to see him again soon. He simply smiled and said his goodbyes and we went our separate ways.
When I returned to the group, I told them my story and read them the verse that inspired it all:
"My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commandments in your heart, for they will give you a long and satisfying life. Never let loyalty and kindness get away from you! Wear them like a necklace; write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will gain a good reputation.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will direct your paths." - Proverbs 3: 1-5
When I walked the group back through the park, John was already gone. But I have his charm and his story with me (I'm still on the hunt for a chain though!) as a reminder to keep wisdom and understanding close to my heart.
-Heather Strange, CSM Nashville Summer 2009 City Host