Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
It was one of the scariest times in our lives. As a pastor and family, Sunday has always been a crazy time for the Taylors and one of the busiest days of the week. And, when things get busy, and crazy, well something strange, and perhaps scary, is bound to happen. And one day it did. I was pastoring at Cobden First Baptist and had been there for seven or eight years. When we arrived we had two daughters and when we left we had three. Our third daughter, who was affectionally called by many, Baby Sarah, came along in 1989. Fast forward about four years. Before I go any further, please know that the statute of limitations has expired for child neglect.
Judy and I always drove separately to church. We had two morning services and since I was the preacher, I got to go to both of them. We had two great services and while it wasn’t unusual to do something with one of the families after church, that day we just went home. Judy got home before I did and I showed up a little later. We started decompressing and getting ready for lunch when someone asked, “Where’s Sarah?” I looked at Judy and Judy looked at me. I thought she had Baby Sarah and she thought I had Baby Sarah. It quickly became apparent that no one had Baby Sarah. Crisis on steroids.
We jumped in our car and literally raced over to the church. No Baby Sarah. One of our best friends lived almost across the street from the church. Their daughter was Sarah’s best friend. Maybe she was there. It was locked up. No Baby Sarah. Needless to say we were in a panic. Someone told us they thought that our friends had gone out to eat at a restaurant that was several miles out of town. We thought maybe they had taken Baby Sarah with them and forgot to tell us. That wasn’t the case. We lived halfway up a steep hill and as we were in the front yard, trying not to panic, we saw a small figure running towards our house. Her long blonde hair was flying in the wind and she looked exhausted. It was Baby Sarah coming home.
So, here’s what happened. Our friends had some new kittens. Maggie, Baby Sarah’s best friend, asked her to come see the kittens. So they went to Maggie’s house, across the street from the church to see the new arrivals. Maggie’s parents, not knowing Baby Sarah was with Maggie, hollered for Maggie to come down so they could go out and eat. Baby Sarah stayed put. After a few minutes she realized she was all alone in the house. She somehow managed to get their door unlocked and opened and she started towards our house which was about a mile away. Now Cobden was a small town, but getting to our house from the church involved going over a railroad crossing and a pretty busy road. Baby Sarah managed to navigate all of that and find her way home. Remember, she was only four or so.
Back to the story. When we got to her she was beet red from the heat and barefoot because she left her shoes at Maggie’s. Her toes were bleeding from the rough pavement. Amazingly, other than that, she was fine. It was quite the reunion and we were so grateful to have her back. We learned a very valuable lesson that day—count the kids when you leave the house for church and more importantly, count the kids when you head back home. The bottom line? It was just one of those things that can happen if a couple of details are missed. In this case one of the details was Baby Sarah.
So, besides counting your kids, what is to be learned from this scary tale? Well, it is obvious but it isn’t. The big question is, “How did Baby Sarah know how to get home?” How did she know how to safely navigate the railroad tracks and the busy street? The answer is this. In the course of everyday life, we had driven, but more importantly walked that path many times. Time after time, hand in hand, she had walked with her mother and sisters so that when she had to do it alone…she could…she did. That wasn’t our intended lesson but it was a very valuable lesson indeed.
Moms and dads and others who have a role in molding and shaping others—remember this—we are teaching whether we know it or not. Our everyday routines are being imprinted on young hearts and minds. And someday, when you least expect it, those imprints will become very, very important. The Bible talks about training up a child in the way they should be so that when they are older they will know the way. That was true for Baby Sarah that day in a practical way. But trust me, it is true every day in ways that we may not see coming.
Because Baby Sarah was prepared that day to walk a path by herself, this story has a good ending. It is one of our favorite stories though it still causes us to shudder. I believe there is another reason why Baby Sarah made it home that day. I believe our Dearest Daddy was watching over her. And the truth is that no matter what or how the story ends, I’m learning that I can trust Him and rest in Him. I’m learning that even in life’s scariest moments—like the ones we are living in right now—we can know that He’s got this. Always has…always will.