I was reading last night that most people believe in angels. It was in those "last few minutes of the day" kind of reading where I just pick up randomly from the stack of books by the bed. This one was from a book Nancy Gray gave me years ago: “The Best Spiritual Writing of 1998” (I told you it was a big stack of books.) The article was by Marc Gellman and called “What Are You Looking For?”
Everyone has seen an angel. It’s the all-time champion of conversation starters. I dare you to find anyone who says they haven’t seen one.
Our angel came one spring when my family was driving to a church retreat. It was the time of year when North Texas gets rain that comes quickly, rains furiously, then leaves as quickly as it came. We were pulling a tent trailer and had all the food for the retreat packed in the trailer. We were on our way to the Texoma area and found ourselves crossing a low spot on the road. Surrounded by farmland, the only thing higher than the grass was a small house where the rain had washed the home’s woodpile out of its tidy stack and into the stream of water that gushed across this low spot in the road.
Beaven thought we could ford the stream of runoff but he didn’t account for the logs floating in the water. Once under our car, they couldn't float away and got tangled up in the tires. When Beaven tried to back up, it only got worse. We found ourselves jack-knifed and headed for the ditch with water swirling around us.
Beaven got out of the car to check on the situation and a man appeared. Neither of us saw him walking toward us or could say for sure where he came from. He just appeared. He didn’t look like any angel I had ever seen. He was really kind of scary looking: lean and dark the way a construction worker gets from long hours in the sun. He had a three-day’s growth of beard and in his white t-shirt he had a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve. The only thing missing was a tattoo.
He got down in the water on his stomach and started pulling logs out from under the car. Then he guided Beaven’s steering until we were straight and finally out of the water. Once on the safe side of the ditch, Beaven and I both looked for him to express our thanks. And he was gone.
We looked around and then at each other. The guy was just gone. The landscape around us was bare except for the farmhouse 50 yards away and grassy fields. The guy was just gone.
We were, and remain still, convinced it was an angel.
Here’s some of what Marc Gellman says about angels:
“Another purpose of angels is that God always needs to teach us how to listen better. Angels teach us how to listen because if you know that every person you meet might be an angel, you are going to listen to that person not just with the ears in your head but with ears in your soul. This is the reason I give to beggars. I know that my coins and dollars have probably bought crack and booze, but I still give because my money might, just might, have bought some baby food or diapers or soup, and I can’t take the chance that I have stiffed an angel. Indeed, rabbinic legends teach us that the Messiah will appear on earth as a beggar waiting for some act of kindness by a stranger before announcing himself. If you can learn to see street bums as potential messiahs, you can learn to see angels when they meet you in the fields of your life.”
You never know. And we have to live our lives with that in mind.