From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

A Piece of Chalk

Conversion is no repairing of the old building; but it takes all down and erects a new structure.

Joseph Alleine

In our home it was natural to fear our father. Even our mother was afraid of him. As children, my sister and I thought every family was like that. Every family had an unpredictable dad who was impossible to please and a praying mama who was there to protect the children. We thought God planned it that way.

We were good children. Mama was always telling us we were, even if Daddy couldn’t see it. Part of this was because we dared not do anything. We were quiet, timid children who rarely spoke, especially never when Daddy was home. People thought God had blessed Mama with the sweetest girls. She was always so proud.

Then came the day we found something new and fun to do. It wouldn’t upset anyone; we’d never take the risk of doing that. We discovered we could draw pictures with chalk on our wooden front door, and it would rub right off. We could have lots of fun, so we set to work drawing and making lots of pretty pictures all over it. We had a great time. It surprised us to see how talented we were. We decided to finish our masterpiece, knowing Mama would just love it. She would want all her friends to come and see it, and maybe they would want us to do their doors, too.

The praise we expected did not come. Instead of seeing the obvious beauty in our work, all Mama could see was the time and effort she would need to clean it off. She was mad. We did not understand why, but we knew all about anger, and we were in big trouble!

Off we ran to find a place to hide. In our wooded yard it was not hard for two small children to find safety. Together, we huddled behind a tree and did not move. Soon we heard the frightened voices of Mom and our neighbors calling out to us. Still we did not budge. They were afraid we had run away or drowned in the pond out back. We were afraid of being found.

The sun set, and it began to get dark. Those around us became more anxious, and we became more frightened. Time was slipping by, and the longer we hid there, the harder it was to come out. Mom was, by now, convinced something awful had happened to us, and she resorted to calling the police. We could hear all the voices drawn together in a group. Then the search was on again, this time with strong male voices overpowering the others. If we were frightened before, now we were terrified!

As we clung together in the dark, we became aware of yet another voice, one we instantly recognized with horror: our daddy. But there was something strangely different about it. In it we heard something we had never heard before: fear, agony and despair. We couldn’t put a name to it then, but that’s what it was. Then came his prayers, tears and prayers intermingled together.

Was that our daddy on his knees pleading with God? Our daddy with tears running down his face, promising God that he would give his life to him if he would safely return his girls?

Nothing in our lives had prepared us for this kind of shock. Neither of us remembers making a decision to come out. We were drawn to him like a magnet, our fears dissolving into the forest. We don’t know yet if we actually took steps or if God somehow moved us out and into Daddy’s arms. What we do remember are those strong, loving arms holding us and crying, hugging us like we were precious.

Things were different after that. We had a new daddy. It was like the old one was buried that day in the forest. God had taken him and replaced him with another, one who loved us and was ever thankful for us.

Mama always told us that God was a God of miracles. I guess she was right. He changed our whole family with a piece of chalk.

Holly Smeltzer

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