“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
As a little girl I presumed that nothing intimidated my dad. He was six feet tall and oversaw his busy haberdashery in Kingston, Jamaica, with a revolver tucked into his waist for protection against gunmen. If something broke, he fixed it. If anyone had a need, he assisted. From my perspective, troubles were scared of him.
Later I discovered that, in fact, he had encountered many challenges that might have crippled a lesser man. He was over nine years old before he met his own father. Then when he turned eleven, my father’s dreams of becoming a physician shattered when the optometrist said, “Take this boy out of school and teach him a trade. He’s going blind!”
At sixteen, my father traveled alone by ship and then by train to New York City for a cornea transplant at a time when the procedure was considered experimental surgery. The operation was a huge success, but an onslaught of typhoid fever reversed the outcome. During one feverish episode, as his body reacted violently, my father experienced God’s presence in a life-changing way. For the rest of his life, my dad looked at the world through a deformed cornea and thick-rimmed glasses—but with a crystal-clear conviction to love and serve the Lord.
I remember entering the ICU cubicle the morning after my forty-eight-year-old mother suffered a massive stroke that robbed her of mobility on her left side. My father was leaning over her bed, singing softly, “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow. Because he lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, I know who holds the future. And life is worth the living, just because he lives.”
I learned over the next eight years as he painstakingly cared for his wife that my father had staked his life on that song’s message. Verses like Proverbs 3:5–10 defined him. God could be trusted and my dad would not depend on his own wisdom or strength. He had learned early to “be not wise in [his] own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:7).
At every opportunity, my father reminded his five children and twenty-one grandchildren: “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce. . . Do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof. . .Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver. . . . Do not lose sight of these—keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck” (Proverbs 3:9,11,13–14, 21–22).
My father truly never lost sight of these. If he were here today, I imagine he would still be instructing all of us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Great words, I believe, that only get better as I age.
Elizabeth A Mitchell