Sandy and I have been on pins and needles wondering about our son. Nearly three weeks ago we sent him to a school for boys in a state far away and part of the school’s policy for new arrivals is a ‘black-out’ period for a couple weeks. No calls. No correspondence. It’s been as though he was shot to the far side of the moon and we’ve held our breath through a vacuum of uncertainty. This morning, however, we awakened to the knowledge that today was the day. Our first call; our first news of how he fared.
We were given a window of three hours in which to make a ten-minute call to our boy. I repeatedly held my watch up to the morning light, waiting for the exact minute we could call. Sandy and I both agreed that we would call the first tick of the allowable time because we wanted our son to know we were living for this moment. And indeed we were. With ten minutes to go, we snuggled close, held hands and prayed. I asked the Lord a question. I wanted to know how the tone and tenor of the conversation might go as we had been warned by the headmaster that the first call is often quite horrible. Everything from begging to come home, wanting to know why they had to be sent away, questioning the parents’ love, threatenings to sabotage everything, calling out hateful diatribes and calling down curses. The works.
In the Lord’s gentle way, He answered my query by taking my mind to a particular destination. He shepherded my heart to the story of Paul and his ministry in the troubled little town of Thessalonica. The man of God spent a scant three weeks founding the church there before an eruption of persecution cut his time short. Railroaded out of town, Paul spent long nights and days wondering how those spiritual babies were faring, having had their support system yanked from their lives.
In the Acts account*, Paul decides to send Timothy back to Thessalonica once the smoke had cleared from the atmosphere. There he waited in Athens, tremulously fidgeting, praying, wondering and praying some more about this fledgling church. When Timothy returned, he brought good news: the newly birthed church was thriving. The faith of those babe-in-arm disciples was holding strong. You wouldn’t believe them, Paul; the Lord’s joy abounds in them and they are fastly becoming a model church for the surrounding region!**
I know the fireball apostle must have put his face in the dirt and rejoiced with weeping and laughter. He may have even danced, kicking up dust all around him; perhaps he lifted a hymn of thanksgiving. He certainly couldn’t wait a tick to sit down and write a letter to those suckling disciples with an amazing appetite for steak.
All of that flooded down on me as I prayed and as Sandy and I lay in the bed, head to head in prayer. I told the Lord, “if that is You, we praise Your Name forever. But if this didn’t come from you, Lord, and the call we are about the make is not good or worse than we imagined, we will still praise Your Name forever…” The petition then being ended, I looked again at my watch and saw we had a single minute. I fumbled for my cell phone, flipped it open and dialed the number. “Do you have the code?” Sandy asked. “You need the code to get through.” “I’ve got the code,” I assured her.
The phone rang and one of the staff picked up. “Who are you calling?” I told him my name and who I was hoping to reach. When he asked for the code, I gave it. “Just a moment,” he said. Suddenly I heard the scraping of a chair being pushed back and the echo of a door being opened. Next a voice calling down what I assumed was a hallway, calling my boy’s name. My squeeze on Sandy’s hand intensified. This is it, we thought together. A few more moments of suspended animation then the phone rattling. Someone was picking up.
It was our son, and in just a single word on speakerphone, Sandy and I knew God had spoken to us and was giving us good news from Thessalonica as we waited nervously for it in our ‘Athens.’ We could hear a gentleness and kindness in his voice, not one stitch of ugliness. No bitter harangues or threats. Conversation poured out like sweet wine and, though the call was only minutes, it was drenched with laughter and glad tears. “Incredible things are happening here, Dad,” he said without divulging any details. No time for it. I just latched on the word Dad. He still calls me Dad.
After what seemed like mere seconds, the call was over. But those moments with our son were like gulps of precious air for someone who had been without. His faith was strong, and that was enough. He was holding fast to the Lord he had for so long felt distanced from and betrayed by. We could see through unveiled eyes washed with tears how God was repairing breaches and shoring up crumbling foundations. It’s Him, all Him, and He knows well how to care for His sheep, no matter where they are.
So, how was your Saturday?
**1 Thessalonians 1:6,7; 3:5-8