Promises to God
One of my favorite things about summer is free time for free reading. Having just finished a final book of a trilogy, I was ready for a new story when my friend Lynn posted a raving recommendation on Facebook of a bestseller she had just read – Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – so I downloaded onto my iPad and started an amazing true tale. Not only was Louis Zamperini’s life story one of incredible inspiration, it was also an allegory of God’s unwavering call to all of us – “I am here; I love you; call on me for everything; look around and notice my work!”
In one of Louie’s trying moments during WWII, he honored the passing of a fellow soldier. “Louie wanted to give him a religious eulogy but didn’t know how, so he recited disjointed passages that he remembered from movies, ending with a few words about committing the body to the sea. And he prayed for himself and Phil, vowing that if God would save them, he would serve heaven forever.” For a long time, Louie forgot about his promise to God, but God did not forget about His promise – He kept watching Louie’s life progress and waiting for their next time of communication.
December 13, 1985 was a Friday the thirteenth, known as an unlucky day for the superstitious – for me a marker in my life to remember making a promise to God. It was the first snow of the fall. Deer hunters had been out during the day making tracks in the wilderness behind our home in the countryside of Indiana. Known as The Lost 500, the land behind and to the west of our house was a vast woodland that gave our small acreage privacy and pristine views. Jonathan was a kindergartener who was eager to go out and play in the snow after his day at Jones Elementary School. I helped him bundle up in his snowsuit, boots and gloves and let him out to enjoy the backyard with his dog, Scooby, while baby Travis napped in his crib and I watched TV news while starting dinner for the family. The weather reporter was predicting the coldest night of the year. Darrell came in the door from work and I opened the sliding glass back door to call Jonathan back in – but he wasn’t there. Neither was the dog. My heart was pounding as Darrell went out to find him. He came back after what seemed an eternity with descriptions of little boy boot prints and dog paw prints that criss- crossed with larger boot prints on the edge of the woods but no sighting of our son! We phoned for help and soon there was a search crew at our house – people from the sheriff’s department and the volunteer fire department. My neighbor, Dee, came to stay at the house with Travis so I could go out in the search. I don’t remember the exact amount of time that was passing as day turned to night but for me time was suspended – a million years converged with every minute, every heartbeat, and every breath. I fell down in the snow and begged with God to protect my son, “If you will save him, I will do anything for you – anything – anything!”
At some point Dee called me back in to the house. There was news from some firemen that Jonathan and Scooby were found coming out of the woods to the road several miles from our house. They were bringing him home in their pickup! Sweet relief – our family was spared from a big brush with tragic loss! Jonathan didn’t want to talk about his adventure/terror other than to say he just kept following his dog. We were so grateful for the people in the community who came out to help us, grateful to Scooby for leading Jonathan to eventual safety and grateful to God for answering that desperate prayer.
Thankfully, God forgives me for repeatedly failing to live up to my side of the bargain. Like Louie Zamperini, once my immediate ordeal was over I tended to not even give it thought. Have you ever made a promise to God? We in our broken human nature cannot live up to our best intentions. God in his divine nature will never fail in His promises.
Whenever Friday the thirteenth comes around I remember my feeble promise and I thought of it again today, Jonathan’s birthday. While celebrating turning 31 he is viewing God’s glorious creation from a famous mountain peak, Machu Picchu. I look forward to his story.
…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Jesus’ words) Matthew 28:20
This also brings to mind a work by Robert Frost – thanks to Mrs. Brooks my old-fashioned 4th grade teacher who made us memorize and recite poetry to her each week.
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.