Friday, February 4, 2011

Angels Earthly and Heavenly

Vroom, vroom, vrooom, vrooooom. The high octave whine of an over-working engine, the sloshing of tires spinning in snow, and the smell of burning... something. My van is stuck. It's my friend Brianna's driveway and I have miscalculated the almost 90 degree bend in it as I was backing out, landing my left two tires in the snow in a ditch, and my right two tires on her icy driveway. Beside my front bumper,Brianna and my sister Kate stand there pushing with everything they've got with each attempt I make to drive the van the last few inches back onto the driveway, getting snow and mud flung in their faces with each spin of the tires.

We have done everything, tried everything we could think of for the last 45 minutes. They have shoveled with me, chipped ice with me, rocked the van, spread rock salt and kitty litter. Kate slipped and fell on a patch of ice but got right back up and continued to help. Brianna is late for work. These are my angels - the best kind of friends, willing to stick by and help me, out in the freezing cold, risking their toes standing near my spinning tire, dodging flying snow and mud, all with a good attitude. Finally we surrender and call Brianna's husband to come home with his 4WD Suburban to tow me out. It takes him 30 minutes to get home and less than 5 to get my van free from the clutches of the ice and snow. Another angel. On the drive home, I start thinking about the last time (and only other time) that I backed my van into a ditch.

It was a Saturday in the middle of the summer, 8pm and the sun was just starting to set. I was leaving the home of a potential client, having just met with them about possibly being their doula at the birth of their first child. Their long driveway crosses a deep drainage ditch before reaching the main road and I cut the wheel too soon, sending my van over the edge. You know that thing in the movies where everything goes in slow motion during a crash or other high-intensity event? It was really like that for me. And as I was going slowly, slowly, into the ditch I caught a glimpse in my rear view mirror of a small truck with two men in it coming down the road. Then I was stopped, my heart beating fast with the adrenaline, embarrassed and unsure what to do next. My two left tires were sitting against the ground in the ditch, my right rear tire was barely sitting on the edge of the driveway, and my right front tire was in the air. My front bumper was at about a 60 degree angle from the ground. I should get out, I thought and started to open my door. It didn't open very far before it hit the ground but I was sure I could squeeze out. But just at the moment I was going to try, I heard a man yelling at me. "Ma'am, don't try to get out that way, the van could fall on you." My rescuer - one of the men from the truck - climbed up, opened the passenger door, and helped me climb out to safety. As I surveyed the scene, it was obvious most of the weight of the vehicle was resting on that front left tire and my shifting and trying to get out the door could have been disastrous.

"We're glad we were driving by," he said after I was safely back on the driveway. In fact, it was pretty amazing they were driving by. My potential clients lived in a quiet neighborhood, far from any major traffic thoroughfares. I hadn't seen a single car on the road while I was driving around looking for their house. "We're contractors, just headed to a job down the street and we have a tow rope there so we'll go get it and be right back, see if we can't get you out." I thanked them profusely. They left and I called my husband, then went to suffer the mortification of telling the homeowners (whom I was sure would never hire me now)that I am a terrible driver and had backed into their ditch.

"My sister did the same thing when she visited last time, flipped her car completely over," the woman said as one of the men hooked the tow rope to my van, then to their truck. "You really should build a short wall on either side of the driveway, ma'am, to help keep this from happening, especially with a ditch this deep," replied one of them. Then, with only slight protest from their little truck, they pulled my van out, bringing all four tires to rest on solid ground. Again I poured out my thanks to these rescuers, these angels. Scruffy, messy men in a beat up truck. Men I probably would have thought a bit creepy had I encountered them in another situation. Men I wouldn't have expected such kindness from, judging from their exterior (a good lesson learned).

The homeowners wanted an estimate for the retaining walls and asked for the men's card. They said they didn't have a card on them so they were told to just drop one in the mailbox next time they drove by. We all thanked them, again, and they left. A couple weeks later, I asked the homeowners (who were now my clients - they hired me despite my bad driving) if the men had left a card; I wanted to send them a formal thank you note. But they said they had never gotten a card. So I got to thinking about my rescuers. Were they earthly angels, good Samaritans, just really kind people like my sister, my friend, and her husband? Or was it more than that? Because some things didn't make sense. They were headed to do some contracting work at 8pm on a Saturday? They just happened to be driving by at the exact moment I needed them? They never dropped off their business card - who turns down work in this slow economy? Perhaps they were real flesh and blood humans who God put in the right place at the right time. Or perhaps they were heavenly beings sent by Him for the very purpose of helping me that day, as Psalm 91:11 says, "He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways." Either way I praise God for them. As I was driving home that night in my surprisingly undamaged van, I had to have a delightful chuckle of joy when I remembered what I had been listening to and singing along with as I backed out of my client's driveway and into the ditch. By Your Side, by Tenth Avenue North:

And I'll be by your side, wherever you fall. In the depths of night, whenever you call. Please don't fight these hands that are holding you. My hands are holding you.

Thank you Lord for Your hands that hold me. And thank you for angels - both earthly and heavenly.