Surprised by an Angel
by Loretta Maase, M.A.
I think I met an angel once, though I didn’t know it at the time. He didn’t look like an angel, if angels have a look. No loving smile. No glorious face. No brilliant white light. There were lights but they were definitely not white. I’ve seen angelic beauty, mind you, so I’m not complaining.
My newborn babies were angelic and I knew it the moment we met. And they were beautiful. But my angel was not. In fact, I think he even carried a badge and a gun. I didn’t believe in earthly angels at the time, at least in terms of being touched by one. But this didn’t make him any less real. God lovingly answered my prayer in a most unexpected way.
Throughout the Bible, God uses angels to communicate with man. I never really understood why, until recently. God is Spirit. But, to communicate with us in person, He sometimes sends representatives in physical form: Moses’ angel appeared in a burning bush, for example. Angels suddenly appeared to frightened shepherds tending their sheep in the field. Angels must prefer surprise because throughout the Bible that is how they appear – suddenly and without warning.
I was surprised, even if my angel seemed less then celestial. I have not historically associated angels with guns and badges. But as I said, I think he had them. I don’t recall seeing them. I only assumed that they were there. At the time, my mind was on other things. At the time, I didn’t have much of a mind, but what was there was on other things. Like the question my five-year-old daughter finally asked in the car on the way to school. I was expecting it. I had taught court-ordered parent education through the Metropolitan Court system long enough to know that children, especially young children, operate in a black & white, cause & effect system. So, I had been thinking about the answer long before she ever asked: “What did you do that was so bad that made him leave?” I had been asking myself the same question.
I knew some of the answers, but I certainly wasn’t prepared to tell them to her. Instead, I parked the car in front of her school and cried. What had I done? And, what hadn’t I done? What now? I had been married so long, twenty years, that I really couldn’t imagine “what now?” The “what now” was the hardest part. I spent most of my twenty-year marriage taking care of children, going to school part time, and developing a part-time counseling practice, so I had very little official resume to fall back on. And more, when he left, he left all the way. He took all the money, every penny of it, and was gone. I had no family nearby and too much pride to tell friends what had really happened. No job. No money. No savings. No family. I had one little five-year-old girl living at home who would soon be out of school at the end of her day. She would be hungry, and full of life, and ready to go on. I would be none of these.
So, I sat in front of her school and cried. “God, You have made a mistake. You promised nothing would happen that I couldn’t handle. I can’t handle this. I have lost my family, my home, and my life as I knew it. I have no money. I have no way to buy milk or food for my daughter today. She will be out of school soon, and hungry, and You know that I won’t be able to feed her. I don’t think I can handle this.” I was in so much pain over the breakup of my marriage that whatever problem-solving skills I thought I had just disappeared. And so I cried: “God, this is too much to handle. My heart is broken. I’m terrified. I don’t have any resources. I don’t know where to turn. I don’t see a way out. Please take me home. I’m ready to go. Please God, take me home or show me something good about your people, something that will make living worthwhile.”
As I expected, when my five-year-old daughter got back in the car after school, the first words out her mouth were: “I’m hungry.” “All right, God. Now what,” I prayed. Now we’ll go home and figure out the next step. That was the frustrating, baffling, confusing state of despair I was in. It was like being in a fog of my own personal war - with the confusion and despair that comes from having a truly broken heart. I could only figure out the very next step, nothing more. The drive home was a blur, and worse. Within blocks from my home, and to highlight an already battle-weary day, a cop pulled me over. I looked in the rearview mirror and had that sinking, guilty, fugitive-like feeling you get when you see the red and blue lights flashing behind you. Perfect.
By the time the cop got to the window I was hysterical. My wide-eyed daughter stared from the back seat as I tried to communicate. “Having a bad day,” he asked? “Yes,” I cried. I hadn’t planned on what I did next. The poor cop was recruited into my war as I let loose of what was left of my mind: “… … …and what’s worse, my husband left, and with him all of our money ... but before he left he got a parking ticket in my car. Yesterday, I got a letter in the mail telling me there’s a bench warrant out for my arrest because the ticket has not been paid (as I pointed to the ticket still on the dashboard). I don’t have money for milk or food for my daughter today. I can’t even fathom paying a ticket right now. Take me to jail. At least you can feed my daughter there…” it all poured out, right on to the unsuspecting cop.
He went back to his car, checked me out on his computer, then came back and tried to talk to me again. “I only stopped you because your license plate was expired,” he explained. “And yes, there is a bench warrant out for your arrest for an unpaid parking ticket.” Then he did a remarkable thing. He reached into my car, took the ticket envelope off the dashboard, put $300 into it, and handed it back to me. He looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m supposed to tell you, we’re not all bad men.” Then he drove away.
No burning bush. No brilliant light. No smile to talk about. Only a prayer from earlier that afternoon, “God show me something beautiful about your people that will make me want to stay here and try.” My angel was not beautiful, but the gift he gave me was. The money was a miracle and a turning point for me. But, the real gift was the gift of renewed faith and trust in God’s Love and provision. From that one extraordinary act of kindness I received the strength and faith I needed to press on.
Today, I have been restored into a world and life far better than the one I had been so dramatically cast out of. I think of my angel occasionally. I went to the police department a few months after he pulled me over to thank him, but they had no record of such a man ever having worked for them.
God is Spirit. When I needed Him the most, He sent me a hard copy, an emissary, in the form of a cop. When I think of my encounter with the gun toting, homely, unsmiling cop, I wonder: just how many times has God answered my prayers and sent me angels unaware?
© Loretta Maase, M.A.