Angels in the Background

Angels in the Background


I’ve never had a true encounter with an angel.  At least not the cherubic icons who hover beautifully in ancient works of art.  My angels lack tiny wings and golden halos.  They do not walk to the accompaniment of harp strings and violins.  My angels fade into the background.  They’re God’s foot soldiers, working out His love and hope and grace without the expectation of acknowledgements or accolades or applause.

My daddy, my angel:  Strength wrapped in gentleness.  Gone from this world but never forgotten.  You showed me I can overcome anything if I keep my eyes on Jesus.  Your actions a testimony stronger than any I’ve heard spoken.  You walked out God’s charity and love.  I remember stopping for a young woman sitting on the side of the busy road.  Car after car had passed her by. You stopped. You spoke to her with such kindness and familiarity, no stranger to you.  You saw her as a child of God, broken, tossed aside, lost from the fold.  You got her the physical help she needed, staying with her until the fire trucks arrived.  We prayed for her later, placing her name among those of our family and friends. Your faith simple, yet profound.  No long sermons. No self-promotion. No self-righteous judgment.  You simply walked it out, for your family, for your friends, for complete strangers.

My mama, my angel: You’re not here now, but God used your life to shape mine.  Describing the impact of your love and self-sacrifice on my life is like attempting to capture the vastness of the universe in a single photograph.  Your life is a testimony of love and grace.  Your faith, pure and uncomplicated by the dogmas of religion.  You loved Jesus.  You believed.  You trusted. You walked with the blind faith of a true child of God.  There was never a moment when you were not there for me.  First words, first steps, first days of school, first sleep over, first basketball game, first crush, first date, first love, first college visit, first heartbreak, first child, first day without Daddy.  I take refuge in knowing you continue to watch over me from Heaven.  God has given you charge over my family and me.  You’ll continue to lift us up.  You’ll fly when our wings become broken.  You’ll sing gloriously when we soar.

My sister, my angel: I call you my twin.  There’s not a memory from my childhood that is without you.  My partner in crime, my confidant, my best friend.  When my baby boy had an emergency surgery, you and Mama came.  You sat by his side all night so I could get some sleep.  I remember rousing several times in the night, lifting my head from the tiny hospital cot to see you sitting there.  Ever present.  Loving my baby because you love me.  As children, our hands worked together in play.  As adults, our hands worked together to care for our parents during their last days.  In you, I see God’s faithfulness.  You walked with me yesterday, you walk with me today, and I know you’ll be there should I need you tomorrow.   

My friend, my angel:  God placed you in my life just before my perfectly constructed world imploded.  A fellow teacher, a good friend, your God-like love and acceptance helped me take that step away from myself and back to God.  You witnessed my fall.  You helped me back up.  Your friendship, your faith, your love for God, mirrored in your unconditional acceptance of me when I was at my worst: an agnostic, legally separated, waiting for a divorce, alone, unsure, and beginning to search.  You loved me where I was, without condemnation.  If a believer of God could do that, I knew God would as well.  You helped shine a light back to the path of faith from which I had strayed years before.

My village, my angels: When Mike and I toured this house, we fell in love with its layout and the wooded, private backyard.  We chose this neighborhood for the house.  Now, we stay in the house for the neighborhood.  My fellow mamas, my neighbors, my friends, you each make this journey of motherhood, which at times can seem lonely and isolating, a cooperative adventure.  We are a true village.  Impromptu play days.  Birthday parties.  Pre-Halloween gathering at M&S’s.  Trick-or-treating the neighborhood loop.  New Year’s Eve at D&A’s.  Block parties.  Book club.  Emergency sitters. Sledding, snow angels, and snowball fights.  Fun, fun times with our kids and with each other.  Friends, each one of you.

When Mama got sick, and I was only home for a few days here and there for three months, you all kept an eye on things, checking in on Mike, bringing him a meal.  You stayed connected with me through phone calls, emails, and texts, just making sure I was doing ok.

When Mama passed away, I returned a shell of the person I was three months before.  Each of you showed up with a meal.  For almost two weeks, someone on this street brought us food.  Yes, you fed our appetites, but more importantly, you fed our souls during those first months after losing my mom.  Kind notes, beautiful cards, bouquets of flowers, loving emails, and unending offers to help.  With every kind word, play day, meal, card, note, email, and text, you each helped to pull me away from an island of isolation and despair and back to the loving shores of our community.

Should my life become a painting, I hope people will look beyond the lone, Cupid-like figure hovering in the forefront.  Inspect the background scenes.  It will be in those seemingly nondescript moments that God’s true angels appear.  After all, Christ walked among man as a simple carpenter.  No pomp and circumstance. No special lighting. No stage performance.  His glory captured not by the perfect rendering of His image in a work of art, but through the testimony of those whose lives He touched.

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