Friday, May 27, 2022

Those Two Questions

It was a hot, dry, late summer’s day in Adelaide, South Australia, the driest State in the driest continent on earth. Our twelve year-old daughter Becky was a new student at a prestige College and we had promised to pick her up after school.
We pulled up in our light blue Volkswagen Combi van. There were children everywhere, bustling their way out of the school ground, shouting to one another, waving, laughing, talking, arguing.
Just in front of us an impatient mother was trying to hurry two dawdling youngsters to her car. A boy wandered by with one shoe lace undone, his shirt hanging out and his tie dangling loose half-way down his chest. Three girls stood in a huddle giggling together. A gangling older boy was doing his best to engage an attractive teenage girl in conversation.
But Becky was nowhere to be seen.
‘Perhaps she’s around at the other gate,’ suggested Michael, her younger brother by two years. So we drove around the block, but still there was no Becky.
‘She’s must have caught the bus,’ my wife suggested.
‘You are probably right,’ I agreed.
So we returned home, expecting to find Becky there. But the house was locked, silent and empty when we arrived.
Worried now, we set off back to the school to search again. It seemed to take ages to agitate our way through the late afternoon traffic. The sun flashed and shimmered from the streaming cars and sizzled on the melting bitumen of the road, making me squint as I drove. The air pollution built up, increasing the discomfort of the baking afternoon heat.
But when we arrived, there was no sign of her. There was rising tension in our hearts as we could not help but wonder what might have happened to our daughter.
Then at the corner, on the other side of the busy main road, with peak-hour traffic growling its weary way through the heat haze, now compounded by exhaust fumes and hot rubber, emerging from a public telephone box beside the nearby the local store, forlorn and alone, Becky appeared.
I hurried to her and, in spite of the heat, hugged her close. She looked up at me, her eyes wide, not with anger, and not with tears, but with a kind of bewildered, pleading puzzlement. ‘Where were you?’ she said plaintively. ‘Why didn’t you come?’
What could I say? I was her father and I had failed to be there when she needed me.
She explained how she had been detained after school for some reason which I cannot remember – it was not important then and nor is it now – and had obviously reached the meeting point after we left.
‘I went to the shop for some change to phone you,’ she continued. ‘But you did not answer. I went back to the shop for more five-cent pieces but every time I called home no one was there.’
‘Didn’t you realise that if no one answers, you can get your money back?’ I asked gently. She shook her head. That made me feel even worse.
Still, the reality was that she was safe and sound. We were all soon back in the car and on our way home. And today she can hardly remember anything about it.
But the whole affair tugged at my heart strings as it does even today. I am not particularly sentimental, but every now and then something sneaks past my defences and finds a breach into my heart. This is what happened with Becky’s two questions. Where were you? Why didn’t you come? I shall never forget them.
And I sometimes wonder if one day, on that great day of the Lord, I might face someone else who is lost and without hope – from China or India or Uganda or even from the streets of Sydney or New York – someone who has never heard the good news that God loved us so much he sent his Son to die for us – someone whose life has been bleak and dark – someone who will look at me with a tears of pleading in their eyes, and ask me the same two questions.

Copyright © Barry Chant 2006

Barry Chant

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Barry Chant is a regular speaker at church services, seminars, conferences and conventions. Hundreds of thousands of his books have been sold around the world. He has degrees in arts, theology and ministry, a diploma in education and a PhD in history. He was the co-founder and former president of Tabor College, Australia.

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