Jeff Danley continued: "And Lord, You know how concerned I am about m..." A cough interrupted his most important request. He cleared his throat. "...About Tim, muh..." More coughing, this time several seconds' worth. Jeff's brow furrowed--he didn't have a cold, didn't have a trace of a sore throat.
He tried again: "I am worried about Tim, my--"
This time, the prayer's disruption came not in the form of a cough, but a Voice within, questioning, "Whose son?"
"My son, Tim--our oldest. He's 16, and..."
"Whose son?" The Voice was patient, yet insistent.
"Oh, well, Carol's and mine, I guess, but..."
"Whose son is he? Yours or Mine?"
Jeff sat in stunned silence. How could God doubt that Tim had been entrusted to Him? Why this interrogation?
"Whose son is he? Yours or Mine? Have you really relinquished everything about him to Me, and to My control?"
"Well, God, I think You know...that is to say...we want the best for him..." He stammered and stuttered through a thought or two, then fell quiet.
Finally, "Have we? Have we withheld him from You?"
"He is Mine, as surely as you are Mine. You must acknowledge this; you must release him. He is Mine, and I am in control."
Jeff's bowed head shook--with tears of guilt, tears of fear, and with the flooding tears of obedience.
The next day at work came the call--the call that changed everything. "Mr. Danley, you need to come to the hospital emergency room. There's been a shooting at the high school, and..."
"I'll be there."
He sped to the hospital, choking with grief and terror, asking God again and again to spare his son's life.
When he arrived, a policeman met him at the entrance. "Name, please?" the imposing man inquired.
Upon hearing "Jeff Danley," he nodded and said, "Please come with me, Mr. Danley. This way."
As they walked swiftly down the hallway, Officer Shanrahan continued: "As is typical with this kind of a situation, there is a lot of confusion and conflicting information. First, I can tell you that your son is alive, and that his injuries do not appear to be life threatening. You may visit with him briefly. Where is your wife, Mr. Danley?"
Jeff's mind was still busy absorbing the wonderful phrase "Your son is alive," but the officer's slightly firmer tone snapped him back to the moment, and he replied, "Oh, she's at a Women's Retreat out of town."
"That's unfortunate, because I have only been given enough latitude to wait an hour before taking him into custody, to assure both parents that his medical needs have been met. She will have to visit him in the holding room down at the station..."
Jeff had stopped walking, and stared stupidly at the back of the lawman, who turned around to face him.
Shanrahan's face changed, softening from all business to genuine sympathy. "I thought you had been informed, Mr. Danley... Jeff. Your son was one of the three shooters at the school today--two boys and a girl."
Jeff sagged, shoulder to the smooth, beige wall, then slid down into an ungainly heap. His thoughts were unfocused, tangled.
Two boys and a girl. That would be Scott and Tim and Whitney.
Oh, no-I'll have to tell Carol. How? I can't...
Then the tears came, choked sobs of "My son, my son. Oh, no, Tim, what have you done? My son."
Then, right there in the hospital hallway, the burly Officer Shanrahan, all six feet, six inches of him, crouched right alongside Jeff Danley, wrapped his big arm around him, and cried with him. "God will give you strength. You have to hold on to the fact that you still love your boy, and always will, no matter what. Nothing can change the fact that he's yours."
And, from the previous night's conversation with the Lord, God's adamant declaration echoed through Jeff's hurting heart and mind: "He is Mine, as surely as you are Mine. He is Mine, and I am in control."
Jeff clung to that statement in the months that followed. The night before the sentencing, as sleep finally overtook him, Jeff drifted off with this image in his mind's eye: he and Tim stood, side-by-side, in the center of the palm of the Father, hearing Him say, once again:
"He is Mine, as surely as you are Mine. He is Mine, and I am in control."
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