In late 2012 I lost my wedding ring. I use our jogging stroller to run with Elizabeth about 2.5 miles to a local playground. We play, I do pull-ups on the swing set, and then when we're done, I run us back home. It is the perfect way to get my workout in, spend time with Elizabeth while also allowing her to get some exercise and play outside.
This particular day, upon arriving at the park I decided not to tie my ring through the drawstring of my shorts or through one of my shoelaces. Instead, I put it in my pocket. It was about 15 minutes into our standard 30 that we usually spend at the park when I realized it was gone. I put Elizabeth on a swing and started looking. Unfortunately, dusk had already arrived and so with each passing moment my daylight dwindled. With each passing moment my anxiety increased.
Elizabeth and I spent about 20 more minutes in search of the sign of my love and fidelity. Then, I called Emily. It was perhaps one of the most humbling conversations of my life. She met us there and helped us look. We stayed as a search party of 4 for about 20 more minutes. The dark of night discouraged and discontinued our reconnaissance mission. Emily drove home; Elizabeth and I ran back without my ring.
I spent the rest of the night strategizing my next move. Tampa has one metal detector company. It didn't open until 10:30. Kids could go to the park before 10:30. Maintenance to the playground could be scheduled for the very next day. A squirrel could carry it off to his nest. The more that I thought about it, the more helpless and hopeless I became. I checked for sunrise the next morning and set my alarm for 45 minutes prior. I took a shovel and a laundry basket and headed back before sunrise to maximize the time I would have before the park's first visitors.
I had been there about 75 minutes when the first visitor ran up to the monkey bars. We exchanged greetings and he started to do pull-ups. The man was on his morning jog and seemed to see the same purpose in the playground that I did. Recognizing that my behaviors were a bit odd, I immediately followed up my morning greeting with an explanation of what I was doing. The man proceeded to ask me questions about where it could potentially be located and abandoned his workout to help me comb the area. After about 30 minutes I knew that my efforts without a higher power were in vain. I thanked the gentlemen for staying for so long to help me and told him about my next step.
Prior to departing, he asked me if it would be okay if he prayed for me because whenever he loses something he prays about it and then he finds it. At first I thought his question meant that he would offer up my sad situation later in his day. His next question didn't change the course I had assumed we were following: what's your name.
I was so shocked, though, that he proceeded to pray with me, in the middle of the playground, using my name, Michael, and reassuring me that my ring would be found.
He finished his prayer and the last words he said to me were, "You're going to find it."
I never got his name. I've never seen him at the park since. The memory of this encounter, however, has stayed with me in an extremely poignant way. I get paid to be faithful and faith filled. My job is ultimately one of ministry. I am supposed to profess my faith every day since I am the principal of a Catholic grade school. Yet, before that time I realized that I lacked the conviction to wear my faith on my sleeve regardless of what kind of sleeve that happens to be. I realized that I would not have had the courage to do what this complete stranger did for me that morning. I realized that I need to be as convicted of my faith as this stranger. I realized how much I still have to learn, grow, and become.
I was scared. I was tired. I felt hopeless and helpless. This man offered me his time. He met me where I was that morning in both a physical and spiritual way. Most importantly and powerfully, he comforted my heart through his actions, words and prayer.
And, as the man told me I would, I found my ring.
But that is another whole story.