On Angels and Ministers of Grace
I was living in a small town that had only two watering holes, one of which was a rundown VFW post. It was a low point in my life. I had recently broken up with my fiancé and was on my way to drown my sorrows at a bar at a nearby town, away from questioning friends and pitying faces. This town sat on a main route across the state, and although its sidewalks were empty, the traffic was heavy.
As is the way when youth overdramatizes love, I felt as though my broken heart outweighed the problems of the world. In a mental fog, I trudged down the sidewalk towards the bar. Suddenly, a little boy who had just learned to use his legs darted out from a building to cross the sidewalk ahead of me. He was headed for the busy street, where cars were racing to outrun the yellow light. Without even thinking, I ran for the tot. As his little foot stepped off the curb, I snatched him to safety. I heard a scream and turned to see his mother, the owner of a nearby Chinese restaurant, scooping him up in her arms. She was yelling in Chinese, and the only thing I understood was, "Thank you! Thank you!" as she nodded toward me. Clutching him almost tighter than he could bear, she and the little one disappeared back into the restaurant.
I couldn't help wondering if I had just saved a life. "Is this how miracles happen?" I wondered. "In the blink of an eye? No fanfare? Just a split-second reaction, and on we go with our lives? Are modern-day miracles cloaked with mundanity?"
In the years that followed, I often thought of that little boy -- of how our lives intersected at that moment, much like the roads met at that intersection. I considered myself honored to have been given the chance to help just one person. If Clarence the angel could take me back in time, like he did George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, what would I see? What if I hadn't been in that town, on that sidewalk, at that moment? What if I had never been born?
I knew that God often used regular people to work guardian angel-like miracles, but I also knew that guardian angels were real. I knew because, like George Bailey, I had personally encountered one -- though I never saw him.
It was a dark night, and I was driving alone down a long, bleak country road. It ended at a "T" with a left turn only. To turn right you had to veer down a separate, one-way, heavily wooded blind curve. As I came upon the curve, a voice said, "Pull to the right." My face contorted with confusion, and I ignored the disembodied directive. The next time, it was louder and more urgent: "Pull to the right!" Now my heart was pounding. I gently turned my steering wheel to the right. "This is crazy," I said out loud as I pulled my car toward the shoulder. No sooner had I done this than I heard, "Farther!" With eyes as big as saucers, I immediately yanked the wheel to the right.
At that very instant, a car came at me head-on like a bullet. It was driving the wrong way, and it barely swerved within a hair's breadth to avoid me. Though it happened in a split-second blur, the image of our side mirrors barely grazing each other is forever frozen in my mind.
I sat there, motionless, wondering what had just happened. I was overcome with emotion as I realized that something supernatural had just happened to me -- little insignificant me. I thanked God. As I pondered the situation later, I realized I had not heard the voice with my ears; I'd heard it in my head. It was, however, no less real or articulated than an audible voice.
While that was the only time I actually heard a clearly spoken directive, it would prove to be one of many unexplained and often miraculous events in my life.
Was I more blessed than others to have these things happen, or did I simply recognize them for what they were, while others passed off their miracles as nothing more than luck or intuition?
I am constantly amazed that the good and evil that surround us every day aren't enough for many Americans. Instead, they are increasingly infatuated with vampires, witches, or mediums with spirit guides named after Indian chiefs. They are willing to shell out money to have a spiritualist puff up their pride by telling them about their "previous lives." This usually includes something grand and romantic...like a brave medieval knight. (Notice that there is always a brave knight instead of a pauper who died of the plague.) Meanwhile, they seem oblivious to the fact that they are swirling in the midst of an epic battle between angels and demons that are not of Ron Howard's making.
I believe that angels are everywhere. The Bible tells us we may stumble across them without even knowing it:
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)
We see a suggestion of "personal angels" in the verse:
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 18:10)
The book of Hebrews says of angels, "[a]re they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
Whether ministering spirits, messengers, or soldiers of God, accounts of them have been documented for thousands of years. Who hasn't envisioned the angels appearing to the shepherds as they announced the birth of Christ? While we can only imagine the scene, we do know that it was so shocking that the angels immediately told the shepherds: "Don't be afraid!"
Whether it be angels, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or God himself who whispers in our ears, one thing is certain: if people truly recognized the extent of spiritual activity that is interwoven through their everyday lives, fictionalized beings like gothic gargoyles and valiant vampires would pale in comparison.
As Christians embrace this holy season, and exchange Christmas cards embossed with what Rev. Peter Marshall called "angels in evening dress with peroxide permanents" -- let us also see the angels and miracles in our everyday lives. We may find we're giving "luck" too much credit.
Susan D. Harris can be reached at http://susandharris.com.