My husband and I joined two friends at a food court for lunch. We ambled along the strip of ethnic culinary fare, trying to decide if we felt more Mexican or Chinese or Japanese or Dobie Gillis American. Here and there some were offering samples on a toothpick, but one woman in particular, the lady at the Cajun restaurant, was more strident than the others.
Rich decided to go for the burger place, Andrea got a salad, David opted for Chinese, and I mentally flipped a coin and went Japanese. We sat at a table not far from the Cajun kitchen and chatted for an hour. The entire time the Cajun promoter did not let up calling out aggressively, almost shaking her skewered meat at passing patrons. We never saw anyone take her up on it.
I was thinking about what kinds of psychological factors play into that most arbitrary of all decisions in life: what to have for lunch. I could just as easily have picked the Italian wrap as the teriyaki chicken, and I know not what deep well of subjective elements coughed up the final choice.
But I know why I didn’t do Cajun: I was afraid of the lady waving the Cajun meat. What would she do if I took her sample and didn’t want to order? Would she scream at me? Would I feel compelled against my will to buy her combo meal, my fear of man no match for her peremptory insistence? I decided I would not release myself into her toxic environment.
As we finished eating and went on our way—with the Cajun hawker still screeching and mall visitors still making a wide berth around her—I thought about wisdom and folly and the book of Proverbs. Throughout its 31 chapters, Proverbs presents wisdom as skill in living. This skill is not precisely identified with knowledge but is the sensitivity to a situation that is the synthesis of knowledge and experience and other ineffable spirituality. The aggressive woman perhaps did not understand why her relentless barrage of protestation of the virtues of her food, and her pleading, went unrequited. Even my lunch dates and I could hardly put our finger on it.
The best I can do at the moment is this: The Word of God speaks of the effectiveness of a “soft answer” (Proverbs 15:1) and the beauty of a “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4). God does not force Himself on us but takes a gently beckoning posture:
“All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Romans 10:21).
“Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).
And those who wish to be followers of God will be like him:
“… we were gentle among you …” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).