A promise to a child should always be honored. Children take you at your word. Even after they have been disappointed a few times, they still give us adults the benefit of the doubt, believing that we will do what we say. And they do not forget what you say. Once I promised one of my grandchildren that they could have a candy bar later in the day. I forgot all about the incident, but as she was going to bed, she asked for it. I went and got her one, marveling that children do not forget anything you say.
I knew that it was important to keep my promise to this child, because I understood the pain of disappointment when an adult fails to fulfill a promise. I learned this as a child with an absent father who never kept his promises about visiting us or bringing us money. For years, I would wait for him to arrive, and no amount of logic on the part of family and friends could deter me believing that my father would someday keep his promises. Then, one day, I suddenly knew that he was not coming, ever. My father’s inability to keep promises made it difficult for me as an adult to believe in the promises of my heavenly Father. Here is why.
I don’t have very many fond memories of my father because he walked out of our lives when I was about age 7 or 8. I did not see him again until I was about age 12. My sister and I had went to live near where he lived, and so often we would run into him on the streets, mostly right after school. If he were sober, my sister and I would stop and talk with him. If he were really drunk, we pretended we did not know him. Attempting to avoid him, when some other kid asked whose daddy he was, my sister and I would try hiding in the group so that he could not see us, but, he would start embarrassing us by calling our names out loud,”Regina, you know I’m your daddy!” There was no escaping him, then.
When we would talk to him, as poor children, we would ask him for money for a pair of shoes that the other kids had or money to go to the movies or a game. Invariably, he would say that when he got paid next time, he would come to my aunt’s house and give us some money. When the day would come, my sister, who was two years older and twenty years wiser, would say, “He is not coming, so you can stop sitting there waiting.”
I would argue with her, stating, “I think he really meant it this time.” And I would wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. I would still be waiting at bedtime, when my mother would make me go to bed. To her credit, she never put him down in front of us for breaking his promises to us.
As foolish as it may seem, for years, I never lost my hope that for once my daddy would honor his promise to come. Then, the day came when I realized that my father was incapable of keeping his promises, mainly because he felt no shame at lying to us. He simply did not think that he was obligated to the two little girls that he had helped to create, something that still haunts my soul and has me at times asking, “WHY?”
Then, one day, my best friend invited me to go to the country with her to visit her aunts and uncles who lived on a farm in Georgia. I just needed $20 for my transportation costs. About a week before the trip, I saw my father one day as I was coming from school, and when he and I stopped to chat, I told him about the trip and how much money I needed. He said that he would bring it to my house that weekend.
Well, when he did not come that Friday, and because we were leaving on Sunday, I decided to go to his apartment, having convinced myself that he just forgot it. When I arrived, I found him drunk in his bed. I asked him for the money, and he gave me a $20 bill and told me to go to the nearby store and get $15 worth of bologna.
So, I went to the store, and when I returned to his place, he told me to keep the change, and he rolled over and went back to sleep. Heartbroken, I just stood there and looked at this man who was supposed to take care of me, and, then, I did something that I was ashamed of for years: I stole his money. I saw where he had taken the money from, and I reached over and just grabbed money out of it and ran. I never spoke to him about it. On a later occasion, he told us that someone came in and robbed him. He did not even remember me being there.
As I walked home with about $30 in my pocket, I was overjoyed that I could go on the trip, but as a Christian (I was saved when I was age 9), I felt bad. I just knew that I was on my way to Hell. I thought lightning was going to strike me, and when it didn’t, I thought that, well,maybe it’s not really stealing if it is your own father.
I went on the trip, but all during the trip, what stayed on my mind was the fact that my father had never planned to come and bring me the money. He just made promises that he knew that he was never going to keep, without any guilt or shame. I suddenly knew that there were adults who lied without any shame and that I could never believe anything he said ever again.
But I also learned from the pain of that admission that I must always be a woman of my word. I must never make promises to children or anyone else that I did not mean to honor. It has been one of the guideposts of my life. I believe that this lesson became a part of me because I realized there was only one entity that never failed to keep His promises: God in Heaven. In Sunday School, I had learned that everything He promised to the children of Israel came true. If God said it in the Bible, I could believe it, and, as His child, I was expected to keep my word also.
Over the course of my life, the promises of God have been proven true in my life, and I have wrote of His faithfulness in other posts, but the one that stands out for me is His assistance when I was accosted for money by a woman and her gang of thieves in Madrid, Spain and no one would help me.
As she grabbed my forearms and would not let go, I heard that small voice in my spirit speak and tell me to look her in the eyes. I did and said,”You’d better let me go, because you haven’t seen a black woman act a fool the way I am about to on you.” And she let me go. Through the Holy Spirit, God told me just what to do and how to handle the situation in a way that kept me safe.
I can truly testify that God’s words do not return to Him void. He was there on the streets of Madrid, on a mountaintop in the French Alps, and on the street in Chattanooga when my ex-husband nearly killed me. His promises are sure, and He will come when you need Him, in His own way and in His own time. He promised, and He always honors His promises. That I am alive is all the proof you need.