I had been silently praying and reflecting on the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane just before he was imprisoned. It is said that, such was his anguish about what was to happen to him, that he started to sweat blood. Then God sent and angel to comfort him. “It’s ok for Jesus.” I thought, “But where’s my angel?” Then, just like that, I was suddenly aware that angels had visited me throughout my life offering help and comfort when I needed it most. Here are my three most memorable recollections of angels touching my life.
Help Along The Way
In 1988 I walked the West Highland Way in Scotland heading from Fort William to Glasgow with my Dad and My brother. Towards the end of the trek, we were on the wild eastern shores of Loch Lomond when things started to go badly wrong.
We’d been on the go for over 12 hours that day and covered about 14 miles of wild, remote and undulating terrain. Close to midnight and exhausted, the three of us left a place called Rowardennan and set out to cover the final 7 miles of the day. We’d only walked about a mile when my Dad collapsed at the side of the road completely exhausted and unable to go any further. We were on a tiny country road in the middle of the night. There was little choice but to drag my Dad back to his feet and try to keep walking.
Suddenly headlights appeared behind us and a vehicle passed me and my Dad and pulled up beside my Brother. The driver asked where we were going and offered to give us a lift. Within minutes he’d dropped us at our destination for the day, a campsite in a place called Balmaha.
It was the circumstances around that incident that made me see this guy as an angel and his help as coming from more than just our everyday world. In our moment of dire need, in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere a vehicle with enough space for three adults and all our bulky equipment showed up on a road which, even in daytime, normally sees little more than cyclists and the occasional car.
Angel In The Alps
My new wife Wendy and I decided to spend our Honeymoon in a small village called Fuschel Am See in the Austrian Alps. It was July 1992 and the height of summer with clear skies and temperatures into the 90s every day. I was in the army at the time and no stranger to the Alps. I used to ski in them every winter and hike in them every summer. Wendy, on the other hand, had rarely climbed a mountain.
Schober was the nearest of the Alps to our hotel. It was only a matter of time before I suggested we climb it as opposed to lying in the sun on the shores of Lake Fuschel. Wendy reluctantly agreed and we soon found ourselves climbing through the trees above the lake. Despite the temperatures we only carried a litre bottle of coke between the two of us to drink. What started as a gentle meander along a forest track soon became a very exposed scramble up sheer rock faces and narrow ridges. We clung desperately onto the metal ladders and cables of Via Feratta there to help climbers negotiate the climb. By the time we summited, late in the afternoon, the coke was gone and we were both exhausted and dehydrated.
With all my experience and training I realized how daft we had been to push on and that we were now in a relatively dangerous situation. We were both in a bad way, there were thousands of feet of sheer rockface to descend and a good few hours before the temperature was likely to drop. Suddenly another couple emerged on the summit beside us. We were delighted when, instead of German, they greeted us in English with a heavy Geordie Accent. They then produced a bag of oranges and a bottle of water which they shared with us as we introduced ourselves. In the end we descended with them and soon found ourselves sharing a coke in the beer garden of a small café close to the lake.
It may have been little more than a Scottish couple meeting an English couple close to a holiday resort in the Austrian Alps but, again, the circumstances in which we met made me wonder if it was something more. High on a mountain in a foreign country right when we were starting to get desperate for fluids and encouragement, they appeared from nowhere, a generous and caring couple who spoke English, shared everything we needed and helped us down off the mountain.
Holding An Angels Hand
Wendy and I went on to have three amazing daughters; Kathryn, Joanna and Julia before, sadly, we grew apart and separated. All of us were completely heart broken and the world seemed full of sadness and uncertainty as we tried to rebuild our lives apart. Shortly after we separated, Wendy needed a Hysterectomy and we soon found ourselves together again around her hospital bed. The girls, now in their teens, were all there which was particularly difficult for Kathryn and Julia as they were both phobic about sickness.
I adore the girls and want to nurture and protect them always yet I felt so helpless as we walked out of the hospital that day. I could see Julia was so deeply upset that her phobia had made it impossible to relax beside her mother. I tried every word of encouragement I could think of but I wasn’t reaching her. The end of Visiting Time, there were a lot of families walking out of the hospital at the same time. All of a sudden a toddler, who could barely have been more than about 2 walked ahead of her own family and reached up and took Julia’s hand. As Julia looked down, surprised, the wee girl look right up at her with a beaming smile. Without saying a word, they walked silently hand in hand to the entrance to the hospital as the rest of us shared smiles with the wee girls family.
With that simple act of love, a tiny human who could have known nothing about the suffering Julia was experiencing or the effects of her own actions, put a smile on Julia’s face that I never expected to see for a long time. She might even have started to mend Julia’s broken heart. It may have seemed like a simple act of humanity but I’m convinced it was an angel’s act of love.
Faith Is A Choice
Of course all of these meetings can be explained away as nothing more than kind hearted people being in the right place at the right time. To have the faith to see them as anything more than that is a choice for us to make. After my conversation with God on the way into the office that morning the choice of faith has opened me to a life full of so much more than mere science has to offer.