“See you next Wednesday, kids! Remember God loves you and so do I!”
Reluctantly I pushed open the door of the squatty brick building and pulled my windbreaker tighter around me. The shock of a chilly October wind took my breath. At 4:30 it was already dark, and I scanned the church parking lot, hoping to see our old blue Buick, inside it the burning ember and curly smoke of a Marlboro. How I longed to be like the rest of the kids in the youth choir, laughing and calling to each other as they dove into warm cars, excited to share stories of their day with moms and dads who anxiously waited to listen. Instead I carefully placed my backpack on the cool concrete steps and sat down to wait.
“He’s forgotten me again.”
It wouldn’t have been so bad if I didn’t have to endure the looks of concern and pity on the faces of the church staff as they carefully stepped around me. I especially avoided Mrs. Bower’s eyes as she stopped to pat my shoulder.
“Need a ride home?”
“No thank you,” I answered as I’d been instructed, “my dad will be here soon.”
“All right then, I’ll see you next week,” she smiled. “Jane, I’m so glad to have you as part of our choir. You have a beautiful voice.” Her words reminded me once again that Wednesdays were my favorite day.
Smitty’s was only a few blocks away, and I could have easily walked there, as I had many times after choir practice. The bartender would always smile at me as I came in, and would sometimes toss me a bag of peanuts or buy me a coke. While my dad and his cronies discussed “business”, I did my homework at one of the empty booths, one eye on the clock, in order to remind dad when it was 6:00 and time to go home. My responsibility, mom said. Once in a while one of the men would shoot me a backward glance, then turn to dad, laughing. I hated Smitty’s, and took to waiting in our car outside the tavern. Later embarrassed for my friends to see me there, I retreated to the long black railing which surrounded the church, sitting and watching for dad’s headlights.
One night I trekked across town to my grandmother’s house, cold and hungry. Gram called the bar to let dad know where I was, and when he finally arrived, I realized too late the mistake I had made in coming. His red, angry face assured me that the long ride home would not be a pleasant one. Roughly he grabbed me by the shoulder and pushed me out the door and into the back seat of the car.
“Next time”, he growled, glaring at me in the rear view mirror, “you…stay…where…you…are. Wait for me.” He reached back and with his huge hand slapped me hard. “No one needs to know our business.” At home, the disappointment on mom’s face required to explanation. I had not done my job.
Dad’s message stayed with me, and though there were many “next times, I stayed and waited. Once when it got cold, the church custodian let me wait inside the front door, where I could peek out and watch for dad. A couple of times I ran across the park to the town library, where I could read until closing time when the kindly library lady shut off the lights and gently ushered me out. Sometimes dad was on time, but usually not. When he did come for me, there was no talk of my day, no interest in my solo in the upcoming Christmas recital, no indication that he was happy to see me. I was an inconvenient, unnecessary part of his life—one best left forgotten.
February came, and flecks of white snow littered my coat as I reached with frozen fingers to ring the bell at my grandmother’s house. She had long since turned out the porch light. As she cracked upon the door, with boldness and confidence I spoke.
“I am tired of waiting.”
As we wait on our Heavenly Father, each of us can be assured that He is coming for us. We are necessary and important, always His children. He will never disappoint us.
“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalms 27: 14.
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