Do you know how we often find ourselves surrounded by angels when we need them?
The Sunday of Labor Day weekend I attended church and sat with my friend. As I started to go to communion and looked out at the people before me, I started to sob, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this,” I heard myself say. My friend held my hand as we went to the aisle and up to the rail. We knelt down at the corner as I put my sobbing face into my hands. “I can’t do this.” I wasn’t sure what “this” was, but my dear friend pressed her elbow into mine and said, “Push. Push. Push harder.” As our elbows pressed into each other and turned white with effort, I was comforted to know she was there by my side. Eventually, I held my hands outward to receive the Body of Christ. The priest tiddley-winked the wafer into my hand, all the time looking outward instead of at me. He could not have missed my sorrow if he looked at my face. He moved on past me. The chalice bearer offered me the cup of wine. And as he brought the chalice to my tear-stained face, he held it with one hand, and with the other he held my hand for a good 30 seconds, way passed what they are taught to do in chalice bearer school. Afterwards, I could not stand, so my buddy helped me up and held my hand as we walked back to our pew. While there, she continued to hold my hand until we risked injury or breakage. It gave me strength and much comfort. It was, truly, one of the most touching memories, one that I will hold in my heart forever.
As I relayed my plans for divorce to my former priest, I told him this story. Because our current priest is truly out of his league and incompetent, I said, “One of the saddest things in all this to know that we have no priest to go to. We have no one to turn to who will listen or comfort us in our time of need. We have no minister.” And he replied, “Yes, you do. Becky and Ron were your ministers. At Grace you are always surrounded by people who will minister to your needs.”
So the other night my soon-to-be-ex husband and I went to a social gathering together with church friends. We can do this. We will remain civil. We have the same friends. Some people knew. Others were floored by the news. Many were saddened. No one wants to see me go. All were supportive. With some there was chatter. With others, there were details. Towards the end of the evening as I was mingling with my camera, I stopped in a small passageway and made idle chit-chat with a friend who I don’t know well simply because I know his wife well, but we’ve never had cause to get close. Never been on a committee together. He drinks his liquor hard and he smokes obnoxious cigars so we don’t often get within range at social gatherings. We are kind and cordial but our relationship is mostly from being parents of kids the same age. He stopped me and expressed his sincere sorrow at my news. I assured him I was fine and that our main concern was selling the house. As I have said 100 times to others when discussing the details, “Our top priority is selling that house. Neither one of us can afford it by ourselves. And we are sick with worry.” And he looked at me and said, “Let us know if we can help you pay the mortgage.” He did not know if my monthly mortgage was $25 or $2500. And yet he offered the greatest gift I could have been given: his love and support and comfort. I leaned into his bear-like body and sobbed. He wrapped his arms around my shaking tearful body and said, “I mean that. All you have to do is ask. You hold a high place of honor in our home, and we would do anything for you.” I could not catch my breath. I could not look up at him. I was determined to be strong at that party, and for the most part, I was. No one, not one thing had reduced me to tears that evening in the telling of my story until he ministered to me. I will never forget what he did for me and what he said to me. I will hold this man in my heart forever.
We are often touched by angels unaware. And I have been touched by many.