by Rev. Cindy Parker
This article was originally published in the November 2013 issue.
“I believe that there are angels among us, sent down to us from somewhere up above, they come to you and me in our darkest hours to show us how to live, to teach us how to give, to guide us with the light of love.”
The country group Alabama sings these words and they have been on my heart and in my mind lately as I write these stories about my experiences with angels.
Have you ever had an experience with someone that you didn’t understand or struggle to make sense of?
When I was in my third and final year of seminary, in addition to serving as a chaplain for Redstone Highlands, I was hired by Westminster Presbyterian Church as Director of Programs and Ministries. I helped the Christian Education committee, taught Sunday school, led the youth group and worked with the Rev. Donna Havrisko to gain some hands-on experience in ministry.
One day I offered to go to the hospital to help Rev. Havrisko with visitation. I drove over to Westmoreland Hospital to visit with a parishioner who was ill. I was a little nervous because I hadn’t been to Westmoreland more than once and I was worried about finding a parking space and finding her room. I asked for directions at the front desk and managed to find her room. Before entering, I stood out in the hallway and said a prayer, as I usually do before I enter someone’s room, (that God will give me the words that person needs to hear). I took a deep breath and walked inside.
There were two beds in this particular room. The first one was empty, and there was a man sitting in a chair that was positioned at the end of the bed. The other bed was by the window and it held the woman I was there to visit.
I walked into the room and as I passed the man sitting in at the end of the first bed, he stood up and introduced himself. He told me his name and let me know that he was waiting for his wife, who was having a test done. I shook his hand and introduced myself, giving him my name only, no other personal information.
I then walked over to the other bed and pulled up a chair. The woman I had come to see startled and woke up. She recognized me and started to tell me how upset she was that she was in the hospital, away from her husband, who was at home and needed her there. (Her husband was suffering from dementia.)
I tried to reassure her that all would be well, but my efforts only seemed to agitate her more. She cried and worried and lamented that she was in the hospital and her husband was at home, probably wondering where she was.
I listened to her patiently. I prayed with her. I held her hand when she fell asleep; all the while getting more and more frustrated that nothing I was doing was helping her. After she finally fell asleep I thought to myself, “Great! What a waste of time! Some pastor I’m going to be!” (Compounding my frustration was the fact that I was having troubles passing the exams required by the Presbyterian Church for ordination.) I was questioning my call, “Could God really be calling me into the ministry?Or had I mixed up God’s signals?” I was ready to cry myself as I sat in that chair in that hospital room feeling miserable and hopeless and so alone.
“Help me, Lord!” I prayed desperately. “Help me to know what you want me to do with my life. I hate to be so trite as to ask for a sign, God, but I really need some reassurance here!”
I waited for a few minutes, listening to the minutes tick by on the clock that hung on the wall. There was no bolt of lightning, no voice from above or within. I looked down at the parishioner, who was still sleeping, and decided I’d done enough damage, I’d better go home.
As I stood up, my gaze fell on that other chair. I’d been so wrapped up with visiting and listening and praying and wallowing in self-pity that I’d forgotten all about the man in the room who was waiting for his wife.
When I walked over towards the door, he stood up. That’s when I really looked at his face. His eyes were filled with unshed tears that threatened to spill down onto his cheeks.
“Thank you,” he whispered. “Thank you for coming to visit today. Your prayer was just the reminder I needed to hear. You’re going to be a blessing to a very special church someday.” The tears rolled down his cheeks as he shook my hand and then enveloped me into a hug.
I stood there, amazed and astonished as I hugged this stranger back. Dazed and confused I found my way back to my car, unlocked it and sat down, still wondering what I was supposed to be doing with my life.
It wasn’t until I went to put my key in the ignition that I realized I had just encountered a messenger from God. I could almost hear the crack of thunder as the lightning bolt of realization hit me right on the head!
“How did he know?” I thought to myself. “How did he know that I needed to hear those words, receive that reassurance?” And then I remembered – I had prayed only minutes before for a sign from God.
I have come to believe that God does indeed send God’s messengers to us: “they come to you and me in our darkest hours to show us how to live, to teach us how to give, to guide us with the light of love.”