In our modern world, with its unspoken assumptions of materialism and skepticism, believing our own eyes, or the eyes of those dear to us, can be a subversive act. Paradoxically, we keep silent about the experiences that touch us most deeply; it is the most superficial of things that we readily talk about. Writing about miracles, C.S. Lewis revealed that he only ever knew one person who claimed to see a ghost, and that individual refused to believe it, preferring instead to imagine that it was the product of some bad marmite on the morning toast. A strange tyranny of the mind it is, that robs us of the freedom to believe in what we see or what we know well to be. For myself, I prefer to recognize that nothing that is real in this world can be proven. Gravity itself, is only a tale told most convincingly by my senses and confirmed by close friends whom I trust, just waiting to be broken by contradicting evidence yet unavailable. So why not speak of those experiences that offer a glimpse of a more complex reality than one that is only physical or material?
The following is a collection of first or second-hand angel stories told in good faith by me or those I know and trust. None of these have been published before, to my knowledge. Some are life-altering or profound in their potential for mischief. Others are simple and almost casual in scope. All of them have positive aspects involving encouragement, healing or spiritual transformation.
Never Summer Triumph – by Grunt: There was a time recently when our family of 5 found itself finally settled in a smallish Colorado town after many moves, a new job, two births in the last two years and countless other challenges that all young families face. It was a time of welcome stability and breathing room, and peeking out from under the fog of our exhaustion, we were determined to do something extravagant to celebrate. Compared to the expensive foreign vacations of our friends, our plan was very modest, but to us it was a tired parent’s dream fulfilled. We rented a cabin in a lodge resort nestled on the glorious shores of Grand Lake near Rocky Mountain National Park. Most important to us, the resort was like a gated stockade, surrounded on all sides except for the water, so our children would be able to run around without fear of traffic. As long as we kept an eye on them by the sandy beach, we would be free to relax, finally, amid the natural splendor of the Rockies, and enjoy a few margaritas in deck chairs, with feet in the sand.
I know this sounds pathetic, really, but we were not the typical 90’s couple who waited until their late 30’s to marry and have children. We married young and had babies without regret, accepting the consequences stoically. But the consequences took their toll. We had, both of us, never much help or respite either in working through school or paying bills or raising children, even though that was mostly our choice, having moved far from family while chasing jobs. In the Summer of 1998, we found ourselves intact but exhausted and desperate. I was still recovering from a particularly stubborn depression that had lasted for years. My wife was in better shape, but like many couples, we both looked to this vacation for healing.
After looking after everyone else, there was one thing that I wanted for myself on this trip, and it was a big deal to me. I wanted to summit a mountain again. As a young man I’d spent whole seasons in the backcountry of the Rockies as a ranch hand and trail builder, and it was a rugged joy that I wanted to glimpse again, if only for a day.
Halfway through our week, my wife arranged to handle the kids for a whole day, and I left pre-dawn on my mountain bike. The target was a peak deep in the Never Summer Wilderness near the Continental Divide, but the trip had to be a sprint over a considerable distance in order to make it work. Timing was everything. If I showed up too late to start the hike at treeline, there would be no summit.
The dim, pinkish light was barely enough to view the road by as I flew up the Kawuneechee Valley, crossed the Colorado River and started the steep ascent of nameless jeep trails that reached into the various timber clearcuts of Arapaho National Forest West of RMNP. I pushed hard to gain altitude as the sun crested the Divide and gloriously lit up the Valley behind. Some of the logging roads wound gently though majestic stands of pine and aspen, and others cut cruelly straight up the ridges, becoming dry cascades of boulders and ruts, littered with the shattered remains of red tail light lenses from countless jeeps making too much contact with the trees and rocks.
After emerging, muddy, from the alpine bogs near treeline, I finally summited the ridge that marked the boundary of the Never Summer Wilderness Area, which was marked with a double-post wooden sign at this point. Here the bike would dry out in the sun, locked to the sign for the rest of the afternoon. Hoofing it was all that was allowed within the WA, and I gladly hit the ground running in great spirits, now surrounded, above treeline, by the splendor of the Never Summer Range. Hours passed as I topped out on first one and then two false summits along the ridge. I paused on the top of the second, surveying what I knew must be the target peak, and drew myself up for the final ascent. Plunging into the saddle between the peaks, I scrambled up the far side, but as the day passed, I became increasingly nervous about the time. I would make it to the top, but I was concerned about my wife. She was a worrier, and I didn’t want to think about how she would handle a few hours delay after nightfall, this being pre-cellphone.
In the brilliant late afternoon sun, I staggered onto the summit and beheld something I didn’t expect. Looming up behind the top was the true summit, past yet another saddle. I was standing on another false summit, and I was utterly crushed. I threw myself down on the alpine turf and, after guzzling some water, stared at the sky in defeat. All the old fears and bitterness came flooding back to me. I wanted this little accomplishment to hold me over through the coming months of endless office work, and I genuinely feared the depression that had dogged me for years. I must have begun praying quietly, pathetically, as I sat up and began staring at the mountain I would not touch.
The first thing I noticed was a figure climbing the sheer face on the North side of the peak. It surprised me at first because I had passed no one the entire day, but it was not really surprising to come across a climber in the mountains, even a free-climber like this one, on a technical face. Strangely, though, he was wearing a parka with the hood up, so his face was hidden. This was unheard of. No one climbed like that on a sunny, warm day. And it was a strange white parka with black accents. This was clearly a tourist, and the idiot was going to get himself killed. But suddenly, I stopped worrying about the tourist. It occurred to me that I could see this guy so clearly, so very near the summit, that it couldn’t be that far, even though it had seemed a mile away at first.
I grabbed my pack and started running down to the saddle and up the other side. By the time I summited for real, it couldn’t have been more than a half hour from when I’d noticed the climber. I was exhilarated. And confused. How could the peak have been so much closer than it seemed? Suddenly it seemed very important to find the climber who had led me to make the decision to commit. This particular peak is very pointy and bald and completely smooth, except for the sheer face on the North side. I could see with a glance that there was no one within view for miles in any direction. Ultimately, I looked down the face, and the truth hit me. This was not a rock face that was climbable by anyone, even technical climbers with equipment. It was some of the most rotten igneous rock I’d ever seen – far too crumbly to attempt foot or handholds without setting loose showers of talus. And it was nearly vertical for a thousand feet. No one had been there, no one at all, and I stuck around far too long afterwards just making sure.
The descent that evening was one of the most joy-filled of my life. Not only did I have a happy puzzle to contemplate, but I had to learn how to make a fast mountain bike descent through the trees over many miles without breaking my neck. It was a new trail bike, and I had only been a road bike driver before that. I believe it was the first time I’d ever done anything dangerous out of the chute with no fear or anxiety whatsoever. And it was good. When I pulled into camp just before sunset with bugs in my teeth and a big goofy grin on my face, my young wife smiled the most beautiful smile at me and handed over our new-born son. Then she handed me a cold bottle of beer and asked me to come watch the sun go down over the lake. Then it got better.
Mysterious Montana – by Sharon: In 1993, I picked up my elderly aunt in Fargo, ND to take her with to Montana to visit my mother (her sister). As we drove, we shared so many wonderful memories regarding how God had blessed our families over the years. She and her husband had thought so much of my Dad, and she shared some stories about that. Then she talked about how she and her husband, in their retirement years, had often spent days driving around the back roads of Montana (yeah, I know—that means most of the roads in Montana)….this was WAY before cell phones. They were often in very isolated areas, and while they tried to be wise about the maintenance of the car so they wouldn’t get stranded, it happened one day, of course. They were pulled off on a desolate and isolated stretch of country road 50 miles from nowhere, unpaved, no traffic at ALL. Her husband worked on the car for some time, and they were getting a little concerned. But he kept working at it and thought he would get it fixed. (He wasn’t all that handy about vehicles, so they were concerned.) They always trusted God for His care in their lives and this was no different.
After he had worked some time, a man driving a truck came by, saw their situation, and pulled over and got out. He walked to them, just asking what the problem was, etc. and made conversation. She said he was wearing normal country/farm clothing, was a tall and fine looking man, and spoke to them so kindly. Then he said he would stay there until they were sure the vehicle was ready to go again. So after a bit, my uncle did indeed get it running, checked it out and it seemed all was back in order. So my aunt was still standing and talking with the kind gentlemen, while uncle slammed the hood down, picked up his tools and made ready to start it up to leave. She explained to me that she was standing about 20 feet from their car talking with the man. He just said, “Well, it looks like you folks are ready to go.” He turned to get back into his truck. She began to walk toward the car to join her husband, and after a couple of steps, turned to call “Goodby” and “thank you” one more time. There was no truck there. There was no man there. There had been no sound of a truck leaving in the 2-3 seconds intervening. So there ya go: an angel with a truck. (don’t know if it had a gun rack–probably not)
God’s care for us is so fine. So very, very fine.
Guardian Angel Co-Pilot – by GFCandInThatOrder: I was driving home from work after a long hot day and traffic was ok. Traveling at 55mph on the highway, I approached this intersection where there was a stop sign for those who wanted to get on or across the road. There was traffic on all sides and this particular car was stopped at the stop sign waiting to make a left turn onto the highway to go the opposite way I was traveling. Having the right of way I continued and when I was about 35 feet from the intersection, this car pulled out right in front of me. The driver then saw me and froze right in the middle of my lane leaving me nowhere to go as there was another car waiting for me to pass through the intersection, another on my right immediately behind the car that had just pulled out and another car going in the opposite dirrection doing about 55mph.
What happened in the next second of my life seemed to transpire over an excruciatingly long length of time and doesn’t seem possible. I saw everything extremely clear unlike anything in normal senses. All the cars in their places stopped and I saw the looks on everybody’s faces as I stomped on the brakes and the sound of tires screeching was above everything else. I heard breaking glass, things banging and people screaming out all in turn. I remember every word and smell and sound and it seemed that I was moving at a quick pace thinking of a thousand decisions all at once and making them. Everybody else was almost completely still while I made many decisions. I saw an area about 7 feet wide between cars and released the brake pedal so I could swerve around the car immediately in front of me and then slam the brakes again to get just the right angle to whip around another car. As soon as I passed about 50 feet through the intersection everything went through warp speed and I literally saw stars as everything went back to its normal speed.
My passengers in my one-ton van were all disheveled, screaming and then awestruck at how I had just done what I had. To this day I am spellbound at God’s great mercy and for my guardian angel Bingo who is constantly by my side working overtime. Also, I’m amazed at the lives that were saved that day and this awesome mind and body that God made. All was nearly instantaneously done while I was exhausted and tired.
Sylmar Quake Guardians – by Sharon: The epicenter of the 1971 Sylmar Quake in the San Fernando Valley was about 5 miles from our house in Van Nuys. My husband and I struggled to get through the hallway to the bedroom where our 3 and 5 year old sons were. He got down by one bed and put his body over the one; I got down by the other and did the same. When things finally stopped, the whole world within 30 miles was pretty shook up; lots of serious damage; loss of life (my cousin was an RN at the Olive View Hospital where one whole end of the building fell off). No one went to work that day. We spent the day gathering our wits mostly. The next day, our oldest son said, “Mommy, are those men coming back?” I responded like most parents who are tired of trying to answer mysterious questions, and gave a non-answer, because I had no idea what he was talking about. But he persisted, “Mommy, aren’t those men coming back?” When I realized he wasn’t going to drop it, I said, “What men?” He replied, “The men who came to the house yesterday.” Ah! Now I can really be “parental” because I knew no one had come to our house the day of the quake. “No, J, there were no men at the house yesterday. Remember–after we got up from the quake, we went to the park.” “No, Mommy, I mean the men who were there DURING the earthquake.” (goosebumps right there)… and I questioned him very, very quietly, because I didn’t want to lead his answers,…..so I tried to ask casual and curious-like. “I don’t remember. What did they look like?” (He’s a little exasperated now….) “Mommy, they were the great big men wearing the white dresses. One of them stood at the end of E’s bed and one stood at the end of my bed.”
So I explained to him, of course, that they were the angels that God sent to take care of him and his brother. Later on, I explained to him that often people standing around those who are being cared for by angels don’t see the angels, and that was why I didn’t understand what he was talking about.
Angel with a Catcher’s Mitt – by Grunt: Years ago we had an 18 month old son who was getting into a lot of trouble toddling around. He and his older brother (3 years old) were at my sister’s place while my wife was helping paint a second story room. Inexplicably, the 3-year-old demanded that both women come downstairs and deal with 2 strange men who were standing in the courtyard outside the front door. Only problem was: no one was visible there. The women searched the courtyard while the kid insisted they were RIGHT THERE. “Can’t you see them?”
The gals were deeply disturbed by this because they wanted to ignore it as a childish game, but he was deadly serious, and I note that he’s never done anything like it before or since. Hesitantly, they climbed the stairs and resumed painting. Within minutes, the 18 month old suddenly climbed an appliance blocking the window and threw himself through the screen of the window 2 stories over the ground level courtyard, directly over where the invisibles had been standing. The women FLEW down the stairs and rushed to the side of the crumpled child who was gently sobbing on the ground.
Long story short: I was called from work to the hospital to find our child screaming his head off while being secured to a CAT-scan tie-down board. Within an hour, the last trauma doctor shook his head and told us there was no evidence that this child had fallen at all, and we could go home. He had no bruises of any kind, and no concussion. Released from the doctors, he began to play as if nothing had happened. That night we all gathered to eat take-out chinese and talk about what had happened. During the meal the 3-year-old broke his silence to say how wonderful it was that “the angel” had caught his brother. We looked at each other, and remembered that only the 3-year-old had been in a position, chasing after his brother and looking out the window, to see him hit the ground. We questioned him endlessly, but he refused to say any more.
After that, I wondered often how a spiritual being could physically “catch” a child. I was rewarded with an internal vision of St. Michael himself, bulging with muscles, and playfully wearing a catcher’s mitt and a big grin. My reaction was that we certainly did not deserve the intervention of the greatest of all the angels, the great chief of the Lord’s hosts. But then I remembered that my son (who fell) and I both shared the middle name of Michael, for a reason. He’s now in his mid teens, and he’s the most devoutly Christian boy I’ve ever met. We both continue to have a devotion to the good angel with the big muscles and a very good eye for falling children.