I glanced across the supper table at Dad. How was the best way to ask him? I sighed, and decided to just ask and get it over with.
“Kelly’s parents are taking her and some friends to an amusement park for her birthday. I’m invited. May I go?” I reached up and twisted a strand of my brown hair to keep my hand from trembling. I just knew that the answer was going to be no.
Dad picked up his coffee mug and took a long drink. Finally he glanced up. “Do you think it would be wise for you to spend that much time with them?” Dad asked. “You know they’re not Christians.”
“She knows that I’m a Christian,” I said. “They respect that.”
“Does she know what a Christian is?” Dad asked.
I shrugged. “If I go, maybe I’ll get the chance to tell her.”
Dad was silent for a bit and then he looked me in the eye. “Erica, you’re only fourteen and I wouldn’t normally allow you to go.” Dad paused again. “However I know you’ve been lonesome since your brothers went on that mission’s trip.” Dad made eye contact with Mom for a bit and then he turned back to me. “It’s fine with me.”
“Oh thank you, Dad! May I go call Kelly now?”
“Go ahead,” Mom said.
“Thanks, Mom.” I jumped to my feet and brought my plate to the kitchen. My heart felt light as I headed to my room. I called Kelly on my cell phone and waited for her to answer.
“Hey, Erica,” Kelly answered.
“They said yes! I can go!”
“Oh, that's great! We're going to have a ton of fun. We're lined up to stay at a hotel with a water park, and restaurants, and everything right in the same building!”
I paused when she said that. “There isn’t a casino attached is there?”
“There is, but we won’t be going there. Did I tell you who else is going?” Kelly asked abruptly changing the subject. Although I tried, I couldn’t forget what she had said. It changed everything.
All my excitement had washed away. If I didn’t tell my parents about the casino, they would never know, but was that right? To make matters worse, we were going to be gone over a Sunday. Is it right for me to miss church just to have fun? I wondered. I told myself that it was all for the better. Now I would have a chance to ask about church, but the guilty feeling didn’t leave me. I wanted more than anything to silence my conscience. Besides, I had already told Kelly that I was going.
That night during family devotions, I couldn’t even look at Dad as he read from the Bible. I knew I should tell them, yet how could I? Mom and Dad were so proud of my brothers as they were off sharing the gospel, and here I was planning on going to a casino. I couldn’t bear the thought of them being ashamed of me.
After devotions, I went to my room. I had just crawled into bed, when there was a knock on my bedroom door.
“Anything you want to talk about, Erica?” Dad asked sitting down on the edge of my bed.
“No, Sir.” I looked away.
“I don't know what you're thinking, Erica, but you don’t seem yourself. You’re only ever going to be happy, if you're doing God’s will. Oh, you might have fun temporarily, but it's never worth compromising. In the end, you always get hurt. Do you get what I'm trying to say?”
“Yes, sir. I think so.”
“I love you, Erica.” he said, hugging me. “See you in the morning, Sweetie.”
“Night, Dad. Thanks.”
“That's what I'm here for. Good night.” He gently shut the door behind him.
After he left, I read a few chapters from my Bible, and then I prayed. “God, please give me courage to do what’s right. Help me be a good example to Kelly. Amen.”
I didn’t want to do it, but I knew what I had to do.
* * *
First thing the next morning, I called Kelly. She didn’t understand why I couldn’t go, but she did listen as I shared how Jesus had died for her.
“Whatever,” she said when I was done. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. A water park and an amusement park, everything for nearly a week and it's free for you. You would give that up just because of a conviction?”
“I can't in good conscience go to a place that supports casinos, but I'll pray for you guys.”
“I still don’t get what the big deal is,” Kelly said. “It’s not like we’re going to be drinking and gambling.”
“I know,” I said, “but even if we’re not doing that, other people there are doing that, and I can’t be a part of that. I don’t want people to see me there and think that it’s okay for them to go because they might not know that I didn’t enter the casino part. They might think that it’s okay to be involved in things like that.”
With that phone call done, I hurried downstairs for breakfast.
“You seem happy this morning, Erica. What are you up to?” Mom asked from the breakfast table.
“Nothing, Mom, but there is something I need to tell you guys. I won't be going with Kelly.”
“Why's that?” Mom asked.
“I found out that we were going to be staying at a hotel that’s attached to a casino. You’ve always taught me to abstain from all appearance of evil, and to not support things like that.” I lowered my gaze. “I'm ashamed to admit it, but I was considering going anyways and not telling you about it.”
“That thought made you unhappy too,” Dad said gently. “Your mother and I knew about the casino, but we wanted to let you make the decision based on what you know to be right. We're very proud of you. You’ll never regret it.”
“You're so right, Dad. When I thought about hiding it from you, I felt awful. I feel so much better now that it’s behind me. Thank you so much for teaching me God's word.”
“I'm proud to see you growing into a dependable adult.”
“I'm only fourteen.”
“Yet you’re already standing up for what’s right. You may even get the opportunity to lead Kelly to the Lord. I'm blessed to have a daughter like you.”
“I'm blessed to have a dad like you. With the Lord's help, I'll try to always make right decisions.”