Before his freshman year of high school, Davey, a young boy, age 14 went to summer camp for three weeks in northern Michigan, as he did each year since age 8. This time, when he returned home his mother shocked him with the news that his father had left. Davey couldn't believe his ears. He adored his dad. When Davey asked her where he'd gone she honestly could not tell him.
Sadness flooded the boy's soul, and that sadness continued through the fall and winter of the school year. That sadness controlled him. Compounding his woes, the senior elite kids poked fun at him, the football coach dropped him from the squad, and for the first time he started getting bad grades. He had never felt such rejection, like such a loser, and so stupid.
Until this sudden change of events, he lived in a fairytale, so to speak. He didn't know it was a fairytale existence until it was taken from him. He now saw what he had but there was no going back to those days. He felt like he had been forced to take a detour that would never return to the main road. He felt aimless and lost. Yet he remembered the good times which made him feel worse. Davey especially remembered his dad as the assistant coach of his grade school basketball team. He also recalled those days of summer when his dad assisted as the coach of his Little League baseball team. Though his dad could not always be there to assist as a coach because of work, he knew his dad wanted to be there.
He also remembered the evenings and the weekends when his dad was around and they did errands, watched sporting events, and played catch or shot hoops. He remembered their special signal whenever he made a basket, got an A on a school paper, or helped his mom. His dad would show him his hand, pointing his little pinky upwards and then say, "You are number one to me!"
These memories made him cry, no sob, especially at night when he experienced indescribable loneliness, emptiness and fear. He had never experienced such emotions, and worse he never thought he would be a person who experienced such emptiness, loneliness, and fear , and this frightened him all the more. What else awaited him? Would things get worse? He had had no idea what life was like without his dad.
Painfully, as he walked home from school there were times he thought he saw his dad in the yard only to realize it was the neighbor. At basketball practice with the freshman squad sometimes he'd look into the stands and swear he saw his dad sitting there but it was someone else's father. When he awakened in the morning he thought he heard his dad talking to his mom but she had the television set on.
His dad never showed up, and this was not the way life was to be lived, and even a 14-year-old knew that. His life was too bad to be true. He did not expect this. This was not fair. Things were not going well. He wondered if he would make it but he really didn't know what was included in not making it. He lived anxiously.
One evening in March staring at the television set because his mom was watching the news, the silhouette of a soldier with special forces appeared on screen, a soldier sitting in the shadows while someone interviewed him. He was talking in a muffled voice -- muffled from some type of automation to disguise his voice -- but was explaining the successful clandestine patrols behind enemy lines and how they had disrupted terrorist sleeper cells. Toward the end of the report, the interviewer asked, "do you have anything personal to share?" The soldier replied, "yes, I want my son to know I had to leave without telling him where I was going. However, I want my son to also know that I have followed all of his activities. I have been informed. I know of his rejections, I know he feels like a loser, and I know he feels stupid. I know he misses me and has been looking for me in the neighborhood, in the stands, and when he awakens in the morning. I want him to know that in time he will see me."
Davey listened in disbelief. Was this his dad? What he heard couldn’t be a coincidence. Then Davey saw the man extend his right hand out of the shadows into the light. As he showed his hand, he pointed his little pinky upwards.
Davey burst into tears – tears of inexpressible joy - sobbing uncontrollably. That was his father! As he wiped away the tears, his mind raced back over the school year. He realized that during those dark days his father knew of his sadness and difficulties. Though his dad had not been present his dad had been aware. Though he had not seen his dad, his dad had seen him, so to speak. At that moment something changed in Davey's heart. A new confidence surged within him.
Though nothing at school changed to the end of the year, and some things got worse, Davey’s view of circumstances changed. Though he knew his dad would not be sitting in the stands, waiting for him in the yard, or talking to his mother in the morning, he had heard from his father and that was enough. Though the seniors made fun of him and he had to watch football games from the stands, he could endure this little while of time.
Are you experiencing with your Heavenly Father what Davey experienced with his earthly father? Do you feel your Father left? Do you feel God left when you lost your job, when you were told that you could never have a baby, when the man you seriously dated told you it was over, when you were informed that you had testicular cancer, when you lost half of your portfolio, when you could not kick the addiction, or when your spouse left?
In your situation, do you feel separated from God? Have you resigned yourself to your Heavenly Father never showing up because God doesn't show up in a situation like yours? When forced to take a despairing detour, a detour that seems to lead to nowhere, do you believe your Heavenly Father is elsewhere? For some, they no longer look for their Father’s presence. They do not believe he will show up. Their detour goes nowhere.
Or, do you believe God intends to surprise you with his presence and even rescue you?
The disciples encountered a comparable defeat. They had placed their faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, the son of the living God. But when Pontius Pilate ordered the Roman soldiers to crucify him, the world of the disciples turned upside down. The detour proved to be a dead-end. Thinking Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom, overthrowing the Roman oppressors and ushering in a world where each of the 12 disciples ruled, his execution on the cross destroyed their hopes. Sad, lonely, empty and fearful they despaired. This was not the plan. Things were not to take this kind of a bad turn. God's plan entailed goodness and glory, not confusion and death.
God left them.
How did the disciples come out of this devastating and defeating dead end? “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19,20).
From out of the shadows, so to speak, the dead Jesus appeared and showed his hands.
As they rejoiced, we can rejoice. Do you? Will you?