There is an artesian jewelry store that I have frequented since I was given a Sweet 16 charm from my parents. Over the years, I find myself stepping into this store to select a piece of jewelry to mark occasions which knowingly shaped my life: a celebration of my final ear surgery due to skin cancer, my husband recognizing our children and me after nearly dying from West Nile, etc. Each piece has a personal meaning to me… a recognition of God showing up and covering me with His love, protection, and grace in ways I may never fully understand.
As I wait in line, I remind myself why I try to stay clear of shopping on Saturdays. My daughter is making her way through the crowds, peering into glass display boxes. I cannot tell what catches her eye, but I can see by my daughter’s expression she shares my love for this place.
I hold in my palm a Sweet 16 charm that we are getting soldered on her bracelet - a gift from her recent birthday. I cannot help but feel a familiar warmth in my palm as the heart-shaped piece looks exactly like the one I had at her age. Sixteen seems so far away from me now; and yet, not so very far away when I look at my daughter.
The line becomes longer as a discussion between a cashier and the guest in front of me continues.
“Look. See, it is the letter T,” the cashier explains as she places a new charm on the velvet pad beside a charm the guest had given to her.
“I see. I just thought it was a cross… stupid, I guess.” The man picks up his charm, tucks his hands into his front pockets, and sways slightly on his toes.
“So, do you want the letter T charm?” The cashier makes eye contact with me in a way that lets me know she is sorry for the delay.
“No. No, I don’t. It wasn’t what I thought it was.”
The cashier looks relieved and gives me a slight wave to come forward. As I am about to show her the charm in my hand, my daughter calls out for me to look at the piece she has been admiring. Knowing I may need more time, I excuse myself to find my daughter.
On my way, I see the man who was before me in line. He is looking at the charm in his hand. I can hear him let out a sigh as his shoulders drop.
“You okay?” I ask. “I was behind you in line and saw that you were in a pretty long discussion with the cashier. Sorry if everything didn’t work out.”
The man begins speaking to me like he is already half-way done with his story. “That flat tire,” he says, shaking his head in disbelief. “I left the house mad. That day I had just had a huge fight with my wife. Worst ever. I tried to get away. Even thought of never coming back.”
A strong knowing comes over me to simply remain. So, I do. The man continues talking.
“I’ve never had a flat in this truck. Never. Been through much tougher terrain than a ramp on a highway, that’s for sure. But picking up speed to leave her, I get a damn flat tire.”
“Good grief. I’m sure you weren’t too happy about that,” I say, knowing he isn’t waiting for a reply from me; he is pausing to relive the story in his head.
“Yeah. I get out and see the gash. But that’s when I notice something sticking in my tire a little higher up. No telling how long it had been there. By the way it was stuck, my guess is it had been in my tire a long time. I got out my pliers and pulled this little thing out.” He shows me the small charm in his hand.
“I thought it was a cross. The gal here tells me it’s a letter T that’s been damaged.”
I look at the charm. Bent. Beaten. Beautiful.
“I’m not a religious nut, but I believe in God, you know? I go to church when my wife drags me.” This time he looks at me. He waits for my reply.
“Um-hmm,” I say with a nod for him to keep going.
“So, I look down at this cross that I pulled out of my tire, and I can’t take my eyes off it. I have this strong feeling that I need to change out the flat and get back home.”
At this point, my daughter comes up beside me. We both listen.
“By the time I get home, the anger has left me. I’m still not sure where it all went, but it left. I talk it out with my wife and even show her the cross. She is the one who recognized the maker.”
“So, why did you come here today?”
I notice a slight blushing on his face. “I thought I’d surprise my wife with a new version of this cross. Maybe one she could put on a necklace or something. But I found out it wasn’t a cross at all. This whole time it’s been a letter. The letter T.” He stops talking to us and says to himself, “So stupid.”
I wait until he returns eye contact before saying anything. “Have you ever thought that God allowed you to see exactly what He wanted you to see? Despite what is or is not, He used this piece to get your attention. And on that day, it was a cross. Definitely a cross.”
His eyes look into mine like he is seeing into one of the glass display cases. Touching the charm, he says, “Maybe you’re right. I bet you’re right.”
“And just maybe your wife would like this same bent and beautiful cross to put on a chain as a gift from you. Something to remind both of you of a specific time when God showed up and covered your marriage with His love, protection, and grace in ways you may never fully understand.”
The cashier approaches us with a concerned look. “Is everything okay over here? May I help with anything?”
I nod to the man to go ahead while my daughter and I take our place in another line.
“Mom, is everything okay? What was that all about?” my daughter asks.
“Everything is wonderful. That was me listening to a man’s testimony of faith that I’m not even sure he realized he was giving. And it was God reminding me of His awesome power to use anything and anyone to bring people home.”
SGLY, dear reader.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian Author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier, Instagram:@tiffanysgly, and Twitter: @tiffanychartier.