Sarah, Please Come Home

Writer Author  Janet Seever
Christian Article : Children  - Fiction  Yes

Christian Author Writer Groggy from sleep, Cheryl was awakened by persistent ringing. Who on earth is ringing the doorbell at this hour? she wondered fearfully, glancing at the clock-1:25 a.m.. She decided not to awaken her paramedic husband, Rick, since he had an early morning shift.

From the kitchen window, she saw flashing lights of a police car.

"Mrs. Anderson," the officer confronted her at the door, "we have your daughter and two of her friends in our police car."

"There must be some mistake," she responded, her heart racing. "Sarah and her friends are having a sleepover in our basement. They were eating popcorn when my husband and I went to bed."

"Apparently they had something to drink with their popcorn," the officer continued, "because they are quite drunk. We caught them ringing doorbells a couple blocks from here. Someone phoned 911."

"I don't understand. We don't even have alcohol in the house." Things like this don't happen to Christian families-do they? she thought. That was the just the beginning.

Soon Cheryl noticed other changes in their once vibrant and cooperative 16-year-old. Grades began slipping, and she dropped out of school sports. Although Sarah had accepted the Lord as a youngster, she now refused to go church. A cigarette packet appeared in her jacket pocket. Every conversation seemed to end in an argument.

This room looks like a pig sty, thought Cheryl one day, shoving Sarah's door open. As she set a stack of clean clothes on Sarah's bed, her foot bumped something hard under the bed. Shock spread through her as she picked up an empty rum bottle.

Discipline didn't work. It was as if Sarah dared them to punish her-the more the better. The crisis came in late September. One Friday night, when Sarah came home hours after her curfew, it was obvious she had been drinking.

The next morning Rick angrily confronted her. "No drinking, Sarah! You know the rules in our house."

Sarah swore softly. "Then I'm out of here." With that she stomped into her room and threw a few belongings into a backpack. "Don't bother looking for me. I don't live here anymore!" she shouted, slamming the door behind her.

Cheryl and Rick stood there in shock.

She won't go very far, they reasoned, since she has almost no money. When she hadn't returned by evening, Cheryl called Sarah's friends, but no one had seen her.

At the police station the next day, the officer told them, "Abduction cases are different. We deal with them. Your daughter is a runaway. If we searched for every runaway here in the city, we'd have no time for anything else. We'll let you know if we see her."

On that somber note Sarah became a statistic - one more runaway.

That night Cheryl sobbed in Rick's arms. "We've got to remember that the Lord loves her even more than we do," Rick said. "This hasn't caught Him by surprise. We have to learn to trust Him."

But trusting was easier said than done.

When days passed and she hadn't come back, they called her friends again. Together Rick and Cheryl showed Sarah's photo at several homeless shelters, but no one had seen her.

Early one morning Rick's ambulance answered a 911 call in a downtown area. The young blonde girl -about Sarah's age and height-had been badly beaten. Was she living on the street? A prostitute? Ashen, Rick turned away and fought for control. Thank God it wasn't Sarah-but it might have been. They finally found one of Sarah's friends who had talked with her, and they marked the date on the calendar.

Sometimes Cheryl felt angry, sometimes numb; at other times fear was a lion, crouching in the corner, ready to pounce on her and devour her.

One sunny October afternoon Cheryl walked to her special place of refuge in a park two blocks from home, a favorite family picnic area when Sarah and her brother were younger. Today Cheryl came to think and to pray. Sitting on a bench, she watched golden autumn leaves drop one by one and noticed geese overhead in their familiar v formation. They know which way to fly for the winter, she thought. Too bad my daughter doesn't have the same homing instinct.

"Lord," she prayed, "we miss Sarah so much." Then her prayer switched to asking "Why?" She thought of Sarah, their lovely daughter who was everyone's friend. What had changed this? It was a time of soul-searching. What could they have done differently?

But God was silent, and that silence was deafening.

She and Rick noticed some of their friends subtly avoided them. Are they afraid that having a runaway child is contagious? Cheryl wondered angrily.

The hardest blow came when Carol, a friend from church, quoted Scripture and said, "You brought this on yourself, Cheryl. You shouldn't have sent Sarah to that public school."

Cheryl was shocked - and then she realized how smug she herself had been in the past, comparing her good children with others who were rebellious.

Her thoughts drifted to Sarah constantly, making concentration on her secretarial job difficult. Where is Sarah living? What is she doing? Is she a prostitute? Does she have AIDS? Is she pregnant? On drugs? Once Cheryl might have rejected a pregnant daughter, but now she would welcome her home. She was learning about grace-God's grace, and it was such a painful lesson.

Just before Christmas, the phone rang. Cheryl's heart raced as she heard Sarah's voice.

"Mom, it's me. I'm fine." Sarah blurted out the words.

"Honey, please come home," Cheryl begged. "we love you."

"Bye," was the abrupt response.

Sarah's presents under the tree remained untouched, and the season was filled with sadness.

She had so much potential. Now she's thrown it all away, Cheryl thought, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. Then a new thought struck her, Did we ever really listen to her? Or were we too busy giving advice? Gradually the months slipped by and renewed hope came to Cheryl's heart. Finding Sarah was no longer an all-consuming passion. She was learning to trust her Lord in a way she had never done before. Sarah was in His hands, and so was she.

One Saturday in April the trees were beginning to bud, a damp, earthy smell filled the air, and Cheryl noticed tulips poking their heads up in her garden. The long, harsh winter was ending.

This spring day is too beautiful to waste, she thought as she walked down to her favorite place in the park. As she sat on the bench, she could hear birds warbling in the trees. Easter was a week away, and the week beyond that was Sarah's 17th birthday.

A feeling of peace settled over her as she thanked God for the beautiful day.

Suddenly, she heard a crunch of dead leaves behind her. Startled, she whirled around and found herself face to face with Sarah. Her greasy blond hair hung around her shoulders, and she was thinner than last fall.

"Dad said I would find you here," Sarah mumbled with eyes down cast as she shifted the backpack on her shoulder. "I miss the old times. I want to come home."

Emotion welled up within Cheryl, but she stifled the impulse to jump up and hug this stranger. There would be time for that later.

"Welcome home," she said gently.

© 2000 Janet Seever All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Editor's Comment: Although the Andersons are a fictional family, many of the incidents in the story are true—a few from my own experience and others from friends. My prayer is that this story will encourage hurting parents who wait for their prodigal children to return home or to return to the Christian values they left behind.God does answer prayers. I know. Janet

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State: Alberta
Country: Canada
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