Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Helen’s Angel

She said –

This morning, while I was walking here to the church, I heard the pretty birds just a’singing in the trees up over my head. And the sun, why the sun was just beaming down, the rays of it streaming through the clouds like a big yellow waterfall. Last night’s rain cleared the air, left it all nice and sweet and it smelled so good to me. Even the grass looked greener this morning. Somebody had trimmed it, I guess, ‘cause it looked so pretty lined up straight against the edge of the sidewalk like it was.

Well, here I was walking to church and I was all sour inside. I’ve been sour inside for so many years that I don’t want to remember. Every Sunday, rain or shine, I have walked on this sidewalk down here to church. I’ve sat right there, always on the left, third row from the back, third chair from the end.  And I have listened to the preaching and I have listened to the singing and I have never uttered a word to anybody here. When preaching was done and the last prayer was prayed, I was out the door and heading home.

Lots of times, back at first, folks smiled at me and spoke nice words and tried to share a bit of Christian fellowship but I just stood there, dumb as a post. Oh, I wanted to be pleasant, I wanted to say something; I wanted to say how much I had enjoyed the special singing, how Pastor seemed to have outdone himself on that sermon. It just ain't like me to be rude. But I couldn’t force my mouth to smile and I couldn't dig deep enough to get the words out and so, after a few Sundays of that, I reckon folks just got tired of trying and gave up. I can’t blame them, I gave up, too. I gave up praying aloud and then I gave up praying at all.

I can’t remember the last time I spoke to another human being. Funny thing, I guess people just thought I was not capable of speaking. It’s entirely possible that, had I tried, I might have proved them all right.

It got to be hard getting up Sunday morning, the Lord’s Day, and dressing up my broken heart in a pretty dress and matching shoes. I had never in my life put makeup on my face, but now I did on Sundays. I covered the tiny scar over my eye with pink powder and brushed my hair just so and then I walked out my door.

My soul made the journey quietly, held captive, forced to go along but determined not to participate in the day. I was bitter inside, but my legs still carried me to church. I ached and I cried, but my hands still clutched my Bible and my eyes watched for the turn at the end of my street. 

I’d rather have stayed home. I was alone and I liked it that way. Neighbors had moved in, moved out and I never bothered to notice. There was no joy in my life, no meaning, no purpose. I had cut myself off from God. I didn’t pray, I didn’t sing and I only carried my Bible to church for show. He and I had nothing to talk about. I doubted He even remembered me anymore, it’d been so long. Still, every Sunday, I trudged to church.

Until this morning. This morning the sun, the grass, the birds … it seemed as if everything was praising God. The grass was as green as it could be. The birds sang as sweetly as they could. The sun beamed so brightly. They must have been praising God! And here I was, walking in it all. Maybe it was the clean, clear air – it smelled so nice, so fresh and I thought maybe today will be the day. Maybe the time has come for old things to pass and new things to come. I slowed my steps and I looked past that bright sun and I said ‘Lord, I’m tired of being sour. I want to be alive like this grass, I want to sing like these birds, I want to be warm and clean inside like this sun and air. Lord, please Lord, today? Show me Your presence today? It’s been so long and I really need You to heal me, to show me that You love me.’

I haven’t run in a long time, but I nearly broke a heel coming around the corner and up the sidewalk here. I felt all tingly inside, like something was working in me. So when I got inside, I sailed right past Pastor, dodged the deacons lined up in the hall,  slipped through a gang of little ones marching to Children’s Church and headed straight to the ladies room. If God was gonna speak to me, I wanted a quiet place to listen.

I stood there, looking around, trying to figure out what to do besides the obvious, which I didn’t need to do to start with. I didn’t need to wash my hands but I didn’t want to leave either. God could start talking at any minute. I couldn’t just stand there, right in the middle of the ladies room, but my legs wouldn’t take me out. So I simply stood there, waiting.  Right in the middle of the ladies room.

And then an angel walked in. 

She said ‘excuse me but if I don’t get these panty hose down, I’m gonna ruin these new shoes!’ and into the stall she went. I could hear her humming. “It doesn’t matter who lives around me, just so my mansion sits near God’s throne.”

So I’m waiting to hear what God’s gonna tell me and here’s a woman in the stall, humming away. Maybe she’ll leave real quick, I thought. I couldn’t think of anything to do and I  wasn’t about to leave, so I washed my clean hands. Twice. The first time, I got caught up in the tune; the second time, as I was rinsing the soap away, the words came to me and I hummed along. I caught my reflection in the mirror and I was smiling. Quietly, I added my voice to hers and my smile got bigger, my eyes were bright with tears. My chest felt full, my legs were weak and, though I was beginning to catch on, I stood still lest my movement disturb the familiar feeling flooding into my soul.

As the angel stepped out of the stall, she sighed and said ‘You know, it never fails. If I drink my coffee on the way over, I end up in here every time.’ And she looked right at me and said ‘Dontcha just hate that?’ And before I had a chance to say nothing, she kept right on. She said ‘I was busy listening to a Dotty cd and got behind schedule. Don took a shortcut or we’d’ve been late. And I drank my wake-up cup on the way, so, now here I am in the bathroom.’

As she washed her hands, she went on “I think her best song, the one I liked best anyway, was the one about her mansion. She wasn’t worried about how big it was or what might be in it. She just wanted to live next door to Jesus. Have you ever heard that song?’ And she turned and looked at me, real close up, expecting me to say something.

And my mouth opened! And words came out! I told her about how that was my Mama’s favorite song. How she did so love to sing about living next door to Jesus and how, that last long week before she went Home, the three of us – Mama, Hal and I - had sung that song every evening after our prayer time and before we tucked her in for the night.

I told her about how I knew, as Hal and I sang at her service, that Mama had indeed gotten her mansion near Jesus, how the words had comforted me as we sang and how I still believe that Jesus Himself came to walk Mama up the Glory Road to her new home.

That angel nodded, kept smiling and I kept talking. I told her that just the instant before that semi crossed the yellow line and took my Hal away, we had been talking about what we wanted in our own mansion, what we might need to have in Heaven. Hal had joked that maybe I’d use the vacuum up there, since I never used it down here.

That angel chuckled and she put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Yeah, I have one but I hid it from myself and I can’t seem to find it."

But it’s been fourteen years, I said to her, and I can’t forgive. I can’t forgive God for taking my Hal. It came right out. No tears, no pain;  just a rush of words riding out on a wave of that sweet-smelling air that I breathed in as I prayed on the sidewalk, giving God one more chance to speak to me, begging Him to say He loved me.

That angel? She said to me, "Now Honey, you know God loves you. He knew you were hurt, He knew you were angry. And He didn’t need to prove that He was there. Of course you believe in Him; you can’t be angry at something that you don’t believe in. You’re angry at God because you know He’s there to be angry at.

And Sweetie, God didn’t take Hal from you, an accident did that. Seems to me you‘ve been hiding from God, denying Him His place in your life. It’s okay to be angry with our good Lord; He’s a big God and He can handle your anger. He can heal your hurt. But there comes a time that you have to let go, step back and let God work in your heart. Fourteen years is an awful long time to carry a grudge but He’s been by your side each and every minute of every day of those years, waiting for you to turn your face to Him, to see Him. Maybe today’s your day to stop being mad at the Lord and, instead, get glad in the Lord!"

I looked at that angel and I said to her that I believed she was right. I said I really needed to pray and that angel? She took her sweater from off her own shoulders and spread it on the floor of that bathroom and we knelt. She said with a smile, ‘This floor’s chilly and we might be here a while.’

And while Faith Church filed into their seats and that angel’s husband sat, wondering where she had got off to, she and I prayed through my trial, seeking the pure sweet face of Jesus, listening for his forgiveness and praising Him when He came through.

I told my Old Friend that I was sorry that I had been mad at Him for those fourteen years. I told Him that I was tired of being sour, tired of being hurt and I asked Him to heal my broken heart and please to accept my apology. Then, because I know Hal would want me to, I asked Him to move up front and be first in my life again.

My angel and I cried together, rejoiced a bit more and then we said ‘Amen’ and stood. I hugged that angel real tight and we decided we would both be just fine today. She left to sit with her husband and I came up here to tell you all about what happened.

Now, I’m finished with my testimony and, if y'all would stop staring at me, I’d like to sit on the front row today so when Pastor asks who’s expecting a miracle, well, I want to look right at him and smile cause I’ve done got mine.

Ain’t God good?

1 comment:

  1. Oh, My...that's all I've got. You took all my words.