by Tim Simmons
“Likely story, Benny!” the little girl said and dangled a floppy rag doll at a tiny stuffed dog she held suspended in front of her. “You did it. Now, you are in big trouble.” She hit the stuffed dog with the doll a few times and then began to cry loudly. She dropped the toys and sobbed with her hands over her face.
More cries echoed down the stairwell and into the lower rooms. A short man with overalls and silver hair struggled up the stairs and into the small upstairs playroom.
“Is my little girl upset again?” the old man asked.
Exist. That’s about all the old man could do on his fixed income. He had been wounded in WWII — shrapnel from a blast hit him in the neck, paralyzing him completely for a few years — but was awarded a purple heart for his troubles. You can’t spend a medal at the grocery, but he drew a small pension that paid the bills. However, with one arm still paralyzed and old age working its magic, trying to raise a five-year old had him worn out most of the time.
“Even a deaf man couldn’t sleep through all this racket!” the old man said. “What’s wrong, puddin’?”
“Not... nothing,” the girl sobbed, trying to catch her breath. Her cheeks were glistening and she was sitting slumped, her head almost on her chest.
“Does Benny need Uncle Paul to give him a spankin’?”
“He don’t need one,” she said, “He already got one.”
“That rascal. He seems to get in trouble a lot, don’t he?”
“All the time, Uncle Paul,” she said. Her face wrinkled up, her brow furrowing and she burst into sobs again. “I want my daddy!”
At times such as this, the old man regrets taking her to raise. It breaks his heart to see her so upset but what could he do? He couldn’t say no. He had hoped she’d grow out of it, but it seems she’s only been getting worse. Not a week goes by that she doesn’t demand to see her father.
Father. It must be all she thinks about. I try but it does no good. Maybe when she gets a little older she’ll understand.
“No, puddin’, don’t cry. Your daddy ain’t far away. He just can’t be here right now. But he still loves you with all his heart and you’ll be able to see him soon.” Uncle Paul patted her on the shoulder.
“Is he mad at me?” she asked.
“Them ain’t healthy thoughts, puddin’. He ain’t mad at you. Don’t ever think he’s mad at you.” Uncle Paul knelt down closer to the girl. “He told me to tell you he loves you more than anything. It won’t be long before you see him. I promise.”
With children, it’s never easy. Uncle Paul tried his best to be a father figure, but he knew. He knew that he wasn’t and couldn’t be. At least he was honest about that. He provided her food, clothing, shelter and a loving relationship.
Relationship. The relationship of her father was what the girl needed. It was missing, and Uncle Paul knew it. He did his best, though. He meant well. But he wasn’t her father.
“Some things are hard to understand,” Uncle Paul began. “And some things... well, we may never understand ’em as long as we live.” He drew a little closer and continued.
“Have I ever told you what your name means?” The little girl shook her head back and forth. “When they brought you to me, they told me to name you myself. I couldn’t think of a prettier name so I named you Faith. It means that when you don’t understand something, you just have to trust that it’ll work out. You have to believe. You have to have faith.” Faith looked up at her uncle. “I know how you feel but you just have to believe that your daddy is going to see you one day and the believing part is what we call faith.”
Not one for deep, philosophical sermons, Uncle Paul thought he had done an exceptional job of explaining the concept.
“Does that make sense, puddin’?” he asked.
“Who is my daddy?” Faith asked and looked down at Benny.
And the cycle continues.
Children. Just when you think you’re safe they manage to ask the hardest questions. She ain’t to blame. I just can’t bear to tell her the truth. No, it must wait. Uncle Paul stood up and said, “We all have daddies but sometimes... sometimes some daddies... they have to be gone for a little while. That’s all. Faith, your daddy is a great man. He speaks to me once in a while. He said if you’ll be good and not cry, he’d come see you soon.”
Own up! No, I won’t tell her. I’ve gone too far now. It must wait. I’ll tell her when she’s older. But she needs something to hold on to.
“His name is ...” Uncle Paul hesitated and Faith looked up at him, waiting. “Joshua,” he finally said with a smile.
To Faith, the name sounded like a spring breeze blowing through blossomed branches. She repeated the sound. “Joshua.” One day, she would see her daddy in person, she promised to herself. She would be good. She would see him in person.
Person. Any person would do. Any name would do. Look at her. That dreamy look. She’s probably making up a face for him and deciding on what color hair he has. Yes, it’s best this way.
In the craggy recesses of his mind, Uncle Paul felt it was wrong. He struggled with it. Yet, he felt forced to perpetuate the... hope. That was his only defense and it made sense to him. He gave her hope. He couldn’t even imagine how to begin to tell her the truth. Worse than murder, he felt. He’d rather kill himself.
Himself. Perhaps he was only thinking of himself. Was it just selfishness that kept him from telling Faith what he knew to be true? Was he just protecting his own feelings? A person could just give up when faced with conflicting ideas of right and wrong. Uncle Paul knew the good book taught that it was wrong to lie. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Oh, he’d heard it far too many times to forget. But how could he hurt Faith and live with himself?
Show some compassion, for God’s sake! There’s still time. Plenty of time. I’ve waited this long.
Not seeming to notice Uncle Paul, Faith played with Benny and Lucy again. Uncle Paul turned and walked toward the door.
“Does Benny have a daddy, Uncle Paul?” Faith asked. Uncle Paul halted.
Who could tell her the truth? Those big, beautiful eyes filled with hope... No, it isn’t right. “Yes, puddin’. Benny has a daddy. But we don’t know where his daddy is right now.”
Father help me! He turned around toward Faith.
“A daddy might be, well, far away or he might be close by, but I’ll bet Benny’s daddy is somewhere out there just like your daddy. Maybe Benny is waiting to see his daddy too,” Uncle Paul said, rubbing a nervous hand over his beard.
Say anything. What does it matter? You’ve gone this far.
“I know it’s hard to understand but if you’re good and just believe that you’ll see your daddy, you will!” Uncle Paul said. “I betcha he’ll come visit you when you turn 13 and bring you a great big surprise.” I’m just giving her hope, that’s all.
Yet, what had he just promised? He couldn’t know for sure. Still, wasn’t it the thought that counted?
Him. She’s all caught up in him and she doesn’t even know him. She keeps looking and looking. Maybe that’s it. An old familiar saying rolled into Uncle Paul’s consciousness like a slow moving fog.
Seek and ye shall find. Knock, and the door shall be opened. The well-worn verses sometimes came back to Uncle Paul at just the right time. Yes, yes. Maybe God will bring her daddy back! Seek, Faith. You keep on seeking and God will give you a daddy.
Who was he kidding? Uncle Paul had no idea who her father was any more than she did. But he trusted God at his word. That’s all he could do now. He cleared his throat.
“Those who seek hard enough will always find what they’re looking for. Don’t worry, Faith. You’ll see your daddy. I just know it.” He reached down and patted her on the head. He vaguely remembered another verse whose basic idea was that someone who was kind to a child wouldn’t lose his reward in heaven.
Rewards. Uncle Paul believed that people were basically good but needed a little motivation sometimes. It all ties in together, you see. Hope — that the reward will be there in the end. Faith — what’s needed to sustain that hope. These are the things that God gave to man in order to get him through the hard times. Uncle Paul needed them right now.
“He won’t let you down, puddin’,” he said. Faith seemed satisfied at last and picked up Benny and gave him a quirky smile, twisting him left then right.
That night Faith slept very soundly.
Eight Years Later
And after the few guests had long since departed, Faith sat at the kitchen table, staring into space, while Uncle Paul, barely able now to get around, began to clean up the mess. On the table was one remaining piece of cake.
Exists. Hope. Faith. Rewards. The promise.
“He didn’t show up,” Faith said.
That one statement sliced through the air and down into the depths of Uncle Paul’s being, dredging up vague memories of promises and rewards that had lain dormant in those dark recesses for eight long years.
“Believe. Just believe, Faith,” she said, tears spilling down now. “I trusted God,” she cried. “You said I’d see my daddy today!” she yelled in defeated sobs.
Must it end this way? No. God has a reason for everything. We just have to rely on faith and there ain’t nothing else we can do. Uncle Paul turned to face Faith.
“God always keeps his promises, Faith. He’s faithful and—”
“To hell with God!” she cried and stood up. Uncle Paul’s mouth dropped open in disbelief. “I trusted,” she cried as the tears rolled unabated, her breathing coming in jerky spasms. “I trusted God... and you.”
Near the table, on the floor, was a small, unopened present. The tag read simply, to Daddy from Faith.
Draw near the cross, Paul. Don’t let faith falter now. She needs you more than ever. You need her more than ever.
“Would I ever lie to you, puddin’? God don’t lie, either.” That didn’t seem to sound like much to Uncle Paul in the current context. The verses seemed to be forsaking him in his greatest time of need. He was drawing a blank. Then a verse came to him.
Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Oh no. God no!
For a moment, Uncle Paul felt dizzy.
“God! I can’t believe you lied to me all these years.”
“Please, Faith, I never meant-”
To hurt her. But she was already through the kitchen door and gone.
Impossible. This can’t be happening!
Is this my reward?
It was about 3 o’clock and a dark cold front that had crept across the October sky had passed through, leaving gorgeous yellow beams bursting through the cracks of straggling clouds. Faith continued to walk along the gravel road that led through a wooded section of town and to the old church. She had forgotten about that church and hadn’t been inside for years but could still remember the singing and the loud shouts.
Faith paused in front of the small, whitewashed church and glanced up at the little steeple. Looking back down she noticed a small sign that stood beside the steps. There was a Bible verse on the sign and Faith read it in silence.
Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
For a moment, she stood gazing at the doorway of the little church. Then, Faith turned away and kept walking.
Copyright © 2005 by Tim Simmons