I was about eleven years old when we got the word that my mother, older brother, and I had finally been approved to move into the government housing project. We had been on the waiting list for a long time, and by most accounts it was a big move up.
For the first time, we would have a regular bath tub, with both hot and cold running water (no more #3 washtub filled with hot water from a gas stove). There were many other high grade perks, like real tile on the first floor with concrete underneath instead of linoleum over floor boards. There was an upstairs with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a side room off the first-floor kitchen where mother could store her ringer washing machine.
With all that relative wealth coming our way, I should have been happy, and I was until about a week before the move. That’s when I got the horrible news that dogs were not allowed in government housing projects.
I pitched a fit. It was the kind of fit that eleven-year old boys without a father are known to throw from time-to-time. I obsessed on the wretched injustice, but to no avail.
Consequently, I did the only thing a fellow in my position could do. I planned to run away from home. I explained the whole thing to my dog, and from the look on his face, he seemed to understand more about my agony than my mother.
The soil behind our little house was sand. So, without anyone the wiser, I dug a fine fort of about four feet wide, and of equal depth. I kept it secret by laying old boards over the top, then covering it with tree branches and picked weeds.
The night before the move, I slipped out the back door, and along with my dog, headed a distance of probably not more than 200 feet to my secret hideaway. I had already provisioned it with matches, candles, a jar of water, a few food items, and a little dry dog food.
The kind-of plan was to live there for a couple of days, and after I was forgotten, to strike out for some place where a boy and his dog would be welcomed and appreciated. But the deep-down goal was to make everyone so heartbroken at my departure that they would see the folly of their ways, and let me keep my dog.
Sometime during the evening, mother discovered I was missing. I could hear her calling, and kept my hand over my dog’s muzzle to keep him from unwittingly betraying our location.
My pastor and his wife lived not far away, and soon they joined in the chorus of calling. With rising hope, I smirked with satisfaction, thinking how worried they must be. Later law enforcement arrived. My brother gave them the location of my regular forts located on the banks of a canal and creek not too far away. I could hear adults talking, cars coming and going, but I remained resolute.
It must have been sometime during the early morning hours that the other noises of the night, noises not connected with the search for a missing boy, and the inevitable longing to be back in my own bed cast a rather worrisome pall over my mind.
My dog grew restless, and the effects of hiding in a damp sand pit for the better part of the night were beginning to weaken my resolve. I poked my head out. As I looked toward our house, the light from the back porch sent out an oddly welcoming glow.
Eventually, it was my dog who drove me out of the sand pit, and racing toward home. He was an all black and rather small mix of dubious Beagle and Labrador ancestry. His name was Spooky, and Spooky wanted to go home, lie down on his rug, and go to sleep. He could not know that our fate had been sealed.
A few days later, we move “up” to the housing project. I never saw Spooky again. For months after, I would call out his name to just about every little black dog I saw. I often walked back to our old house hoping vainly to see him lying at his watch spot next to the back door.
They say time heals all wounds. It does not heal all wounds, but it heals many, and eventually I stopped thinking about Spooky. On some occasions, I would recall how much fun we had together, and how much I had loved him, but the hurt was gone.
Only as an adult was I able to understand the painful decision my mother was forced to make in order to improve living conditions for her two boys. She did the right thing. In fact, she did more than she ever told me.
Thirty-six years later, I was granted the extraordinary honor of serving as a staff pastor for the church of my childhood. One of the retired ministers on the volunteer staff was the pastor who had helped to try to find me on the night of my short-lived disappearance so many years before.
A member also of the church was his older son. During one of our “remember when’s,” I learned something I had not known. From my dear old pastor I learned that a significant number of law enforcement officers had searched throughout that night hoping not to find me a victim of the dangerous waters of the creek and canal where they thought me to have been hiding. It pained me to think of the trouble I had causes everyone.
I learned another thing that I had not known. The pastor’s son, a fine and gentle man, as well as an avid sportsman, had promised my mother to give Spooky a good home.
The day we moved “up,” so had Spooky. He was given his own regular dog house, had the run of the place, and turned out to be, in the words of his new master, “One of the finest hunting dogs I have ever known.” It seems that Spooky really must have been of Beagle and Labrador blood. I was thrilled to learn that he lived a long life, and hunted faithfully to the very end.
You might wonder why neither my mother, nor anyone else, had told me about Spooky’s new home. I do not. Knowing my personality as a child, I would have found a way to visit Spooky, and in so doing, spoiled his chances to forget me, and to bond with a master who could give him a far better quality of life.
In learning these things, I came to an even deeper appreciation for the fact that as a loving Father, God is not obligated to make clear to His children all the reasons for His ways. Many of which are beyond our knowing at the time, and some that are just beyond our understanding – period.
Whatever difficulties we may be facing at the moment, however unreasonable a situation may seem at the time, without knowing where things will end up, there is one thing we can be certain of – the Parent of our soul knows what is best for us, and in the end will never leave us or forsake us. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” ( I Corinthians 13:12 KJV).
Ultimately, when we are with Him, and in our glorified state infinitely more mature than now, we shall see the good that was in all His ways. We will be home. We shall have moved “up” to the best of all places. That’s why as a child of God, we are never running away from home, but actually running away to home!
“1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:1-7 KJV).
Keep running , home is not that far away.
Dennis D. Frey, Th.D., President
Master’s International University of Divinity