Sometimes God will use the emptiness of false hope to bring to light His true hope.
This is one of my “pastor” memories. A true story. Just the name and a location point changed. Seems appropriate to remember as so many seem to be in a season of “waiting”.
Years ago (Pleistocene era), when I was a budding youth pastor, working with Junior High students, I met Donny. Donny was a bright fun-loving twelve-year-old who was a bit small for his age, well liked by our staff and all the other students, and, quite lonely. He, and his mom, came some distance to our church so he wasn’t as connected as he wanted, but several staff made the commitment to get him to youth group despite the long drive. Donny’s parents parents were recently divorced and his mom was trying to make it with little money earned at a lower wage job. Her ex-husband, Donny’s dad, was an alcoholic who had driven the family into debt, continued to spend money profusely, failing in his support payments, and and promised the world to his son.
Like most kids his age, Donny didn’t understand everything going on. He missed his dad. He loved his mom. He just knew that if he could just spend time with his dad the world would be right. And if his mom would just trust his dad more they would get back together and happy times would come. But mostly, he missed his dad and wanted to spend time with him. And his dad promised that they would have some great times even as soon as whatever excuse he had for that week was gone. So Donny talked about his dad a lot, the things they would be doing, where they were going, how cool his dad was, and how happy his mom was going to be when they all got back together.
The Junior High winter camp was coming up and Donny was pretty pumped about it. He’d never been away with friends like that overnight – and in the mountains, with snow! We arranged financial help for him. One of the staff was going to pick him up so mom wouldn’t have to take time off her shift. We easily found a sleeping bag and warm jacket for him to borrow. Donny was really excited! He must have called one of the leaders three or four times a day with questions. I think every student and leader was almost as excited as Donny about Donny going to camp.
And then Donny called the night before and cancelled. His father had called. “I’m taking you fishing this weekend buddy! I’ve got spaces on the boat reserved. Pack a bag because we’ll hang out for a few days and have some fun. Just you and me buddy. Tell your mom to have you out waiting early tomorrow. Yep, we’re gonna have a great time.”
So Donny missed camp … and waited on the curb for his dad to come pick him up on Friday morning.
And he was waiting there until well after dark. A call. “Sorry buddy, I had something to do, but I’ll be there tomorrow. Promise”
Donny didn’t know about alcoholics; that some people don’t keep promises – don’t even remember that they made one. So he waited again on Saturday. All day. His mom said he had his little bag and proudly told anyone who walked by he was going fishing with his dad. He was so excited he didn’t even take time eat. Didn’t want to miss when his dad came. Another phone call late. “Sorry buddy…”.
So Donny waited the next day. Another call. “Tomorrow buddy. I’m taking a couple of extra days off for the holidays.”
Meanwhile, we had a great winter camp. Of course, everyone wanted to know where Donny was; but they were pleased that he was spending time with his dad. When I called on Wednesday to see how his weekend had gone Donny’s mom tearfully told me the story, along with the conclusion.
Monday, Donny waited again, but only until noon. Another call.
Tuesday, he didn’t even go outside.
Wednesday, I had the opportunity to talk with Donny about his disappointment and hurt; and introduce him to the One who’s promises are always kept, who always comes through – even if you have to wait for a while.