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I married when I was just 19 years old, and, despite my attempts to be a good wife, my marriage failed shortly before the birth of my second child, Karl. I was distressed but determined to be the best single parent that I could.

To support my children, I got a job and tried with all of my might to balance parenting and work. At first, Karl seemed unaffected by the divorce, but as his father’s visits became less and less frequent, I could see Karl withdrawing into himself.

When Karl was 12 years old, his father died. I tried to comfort Karl, but he angrily barricaded himself in his bedroom. “I don’t care,” he insisted. But I could hear him crying on the other side of the door.

When Karl entered high school at age 14, I prayed that he would do well and go on to college. Unfortunately, it became almost immediately apparent that Karl was having difficulty adjusting. His very first report  card indicated that he was failing all of his classes because of poor attendance.

I talked to Karl about this. I attended numerous parent-teacher meetings at the high school. I sent him to counseling. I went to counseling with him.  I tried punishing him—even begging. Nothing worked. Every day, I dropped him off at the high school entrance on my way to work, and after I drove away, he crossed the street and hung out in the park with the other dropouts.

The low point for me came the day I received both Karl’s report card and a letter from the coordinator of the school’s talented-and-gifted program. The report card indicated that Karl had been absent 45 times and had received five failing grades. As a result, he was now a full year behind his classmates. Incredibly, the letter said, “The scores on your son’s IQ test indicate that he has above-average intelligence. Please call our office to discuss his future. We are convinced that he will do well in our college-bound program. He is exceptionally bright.”

This was the last straw for me. I couldn’t get Karl to go to school, much less enroll in a program that required extra effort. I felt powerless and began to cry. Then, after what seemed like hours, I dried my tears and began to pray. I asked God to take my son into His arms and dry his  tears. I asked God to be the father that Karl never had. I asked God to inspire Karl to live up to his full potential.

When I finished praying for Karl, I was rewarded with a sense of peace that I had not known in years. I slept soundly that night, fully convinced that Karl’s situation was going to be all right. And, from that point on, I stopped trying to make my son go to school. I turned the situation over to God—and I waited.

A few weeks later, I answered the phone at work. A man with a deep voice asked for Karl’s mother. “That’s me,” I replied. “What can I do for you?”

“I am Karl’s school counselor,” the man said. “I want to talk to you about your son’s absences.”

“Oh,” I said. “I am glad to hear from you, but I want you to know that I have already tried everything I can think of to get Karl to go to school. Now, it is up to the Lord.” With these words, I began to cry and poured out my heart to this stranger on the phone. “I love my son,” I said. “I want only what is best for him. But I can’t make him do something he refuses to do. God knows I have tried. So, I am going to continue praying for him and love him no matter what he decides to do with his life. That is all I can do for now.”

When I was finished, there was silence on the other end of the line. Then solemnly the man said, “Thank you for your time, Mrs. Peabody. I will stay in touch.”

Karl’s next report card showed a marked improvement in his attendance and grades. I was ecstatic. The following semester Karl was on the honor roll. I couldn’t believe the change, and yet I had prayed for it.

For the next two years, Karl continued to work hard. He went to summer school and evening classes at the local adult school to make up the classes he had failed. He was determined to graduate with his class even though I assured him that it was all right with me if he graduated a year later.

Halfway through his last semester in high school, Karl invited me to attend Parents’ Night. There he took me from classroom to classroom, introducing me to his teachers. They were all very happy about Karl’s improvement.

Before we went home that evening, Karl escorted me to a patio adjacent to the school gym. We sat on a wooden bench just silently enjoying the spring evening for awhile. Then Karl turned to mewith a smile. For a second he hesitated; then softly he said, “Mom you have never asked me why I went back to school. Don’t you want to know?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I guess I was so happy that I didn’t want to question it.”

“Well,” he said, “I would like to tell you. A couple years ago, I decided to play a joke on you. So I called you at work and pretended to be a school counselor. For some reason, you didn’t recognize my voice, and so you shared with me your innermost feelings about the problems I was having. What you said saddened me and made me ashamed. At that moment, I knew deep in my heart that I had to do something to make things right. From that moment on, I resolved to do better—for myself and for you.”

So amazed I couldn’t speak, I gave Karl a hug and silently thanked the Lord for making my dream come true. I also thanked God for renewing my faith in Him because now, more than ever before, I know that God  has the power to intervene—to talk to us through our hearts—to move us to do things we would not ordinarily do.

Christ lives, my friends! Not just through the Word, but through action. We are not alone, and we never need to feel forsaken.

Susan Peabody writes from Berkeley, California.

Karl's Surprise

by Susan Peabody
From the March 2005 Signs