A Promise Kept

The reward of young faith.

by Sarah R. Dace*

“Sarah, come with me, please.”

Mrs. Grant’s face bore the strain I heard in her voice. As I followed her down the row of desk cubicles in our modern day, one-room schoolhouse, she stopped to tap my ten-year-old brother’s shoulder and whisper in his ear. J. D. got up and followed. Dread crept through me as she led us into a vacant room and seated us across from each other.

J. D.’s fear was palpable, his blue eyes the size of silver dollars. When I looked into them, their wariness and uncertainty seared my heart. We blinked, swallowed hard, and turned our focus to Mrs. Grant.

Family crisis

“Your Aunt Emily just called. Your mom is suicidal . . . she threatened to take a bunch of pills, but Emily talked her out of it. They’re on their way to Farmington State Hospital now. Emily said they helped her once and they can help your mom too.”

Farmington? I said to myself. But that’s “the Farm” — the loony bin!

Questions flooded my mind. Everyone joked about Farmington being the place where they lock up crazy people. Was my mom crazy? What will others think of her — of us? I wondered. Where is Dad? Does he know? What will this do to him — to our family? Who will tell my brother, Clay?

Intense emotions

I don’t remember much of what happened after that. I felt numb from shock. Fear, confusion, heartache, humiliation, remorse riddled through every part of me — body, soul, and spirit.

It wasn’t that Mom’s depression was anything new. Between hospital stays and a lot of overnighters with friends, she had come and gone a lot for a couple of years. But suicide?

Search for significance

I sat paralyzed as Mrs. Grant prayed with my brother and me. How could this thing happen in a Christian home?

I’m not sure how I got through that day, or the next, or even the one after that. But eventually Mom came home. She seemed happy and stable.

I soon found, however, that my world wasn’t righted yet. After only a few days at home, Mom pulled J. D. and me into my bedroom. She said she was going away to school. Dad said he would divorce her if she left again, but she insisted with tears that she needed to do this to prove to herself she was capable — that she was worth something. It wasn’t that she didn’t love us; she needed to feel significant. She begged for our understanding.

Collapsed world

It relieved me to be left with Dad, knowing I wouldn’t have to move, but I still felt abandoned. Where are You, Lord? What is going on? You hate divorce. So why are You allowing this to happen?

My world had crashed down around me. Even though my grief was more than I could bear, I had to be strong. I was the woman in the home now — the one making sure people were fed, the house cleaned, the laundry and dishes done. And I was only thirteen.

Friend to friend

After several months of coping, I unraveled. My mom was gone. My dad worked swing shifts sixty miles away, meaning we sometimes didn’t see him for days. I had no friends. I faced constant persecution as a Christian — from kids who called themselves Christians. And I had no one to talk to except a pen pal I met at Bible camp the year before. So talk I did.

David always seemed to understand what I was going through. He knew just what to say, giving me courage and strength to focus on God, to keep moving forward. So I sat on my bed and poured out my soul in what must have been a ten-page letter, both sides.

Heartfelt letter

“. . . Do you know what it’s like to have your mom leave . . . to have your parents split up . . . divorce? To feel like your mom doesn’t love you enough to stay? Do you know what it’s like to have all the household responsibilities dumped on you?

“I can’t go to school and come home to do homework like normal girls. No, I have to clean house and cook. I have to make sure we don’t run out of laundry detergent, toilet paper, or shampoo. I have to plan meals and shop with my dad.

“It’s not fair . . . it’s not right. I’m only thirteen. Life isn’t supposed to be this way.

“Why did God have to let my parents split up, David? Why doesn’t He just fix it? Do you have any idea what it’s like?

“I don’t even know where I belong anymore. I don’t fit in anywhere. While other girls are talking about their favorite movie stars, I’m remembering that I forgot to take the supper meat out of the freezer. While they’re hanging out together at the church dinner and having fun, I’m sitting around with the women exchanging recipes and household tips.

“Why can’t I just have a normal life? I feel so alone.

“And what if my dad finds another wife or my mom gets remarried? I couldn’t take that, David. I just couldn’t. Why can’t we be a family again? Why can’t this all just go away? Why did it have to happen at all? Do you have any idea what I’m going through?”

With relief and a little trepidation, I sent it off and waited for his return letter.

Growing hope

When his answer came, I knew without a doubt that he was a special friend sent from God for this time in my life. “Yes,” he said. “I do know what it’s like. You see, my parents divorced, too. But I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. Mine got back together.”

Hope! What a wonderful thing it is! If it could happen for my friend, it could happen for me. And as I meditated on John 15:1-12, my hope grew. In verses 7, 8, Jesus said: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (NIV).

Promise and persistence

I grabbed onto that passage and clung to it for life.

I was just a kid, but I knew that my God is a God of promise, a God of miracles. And I knew that God could perform this providential miracle — not because of my faith but because of His promise.

It didn’t happen the next day or the next week or the next month — not even the next year. But I kept praying, trusting, believing. . . .

Rough return

Dad called me into the living room late one afternoon. “Your mom is coming home.”

“To stay?”

“That’s what she said.”

And so she came.

It wasn’t an easy return home by any stretch of the imagination. The road was hard and wrought with many trials. Looking back now, I believe my mom was a brave woman to do it.

And when I think about our family get-togethers today, I can’t help but wonder how different things would be if God were not a keeper of promises. No matter what happens in my life, I can hold on to His sure word.

*Sarah R. Dace is a pseudonym.