My very best friend in fourth grade remains among my dearest friends today. We now live several hundred miles apart but for a decade it was a 1.5 mile hike. Often, J and I would walk or bike one way or the other; sometimes we’d meet in the middle.
Between my house and hers was a lonely backcountry road, unpopulated until the outskirts of her tiny village. At about the half-way point there was a sketchy stretch that cut through a swamp. Murky black water, green with algae and thick with brush, no doubt s-s-s-snakes! and other undesirables, lay on either side of the narrow, shoulderless road. It gave me the heebie-jeebies, even in broad daylight. I always hurried through, relieved to crest the hill on the other side and return to civilization.
One lazy summer day as we were walking toward her house and nearing the swamp, a red car passed, slowly. My invisible antennae popped up: too slowly. Too slowly! We were youngsters — ten, maybe eleven, years old. Suddenly I felt extremely vulnerable.
We seldom heard about child abductions back then but my mother had narrowly escaped a stranger under similar circumstances, decades prior. I knew that story well. A heartfelt obligation to return her brother’s bicycle was her salvation. Otherwise, she would have climbed into the car to help the “nice man” find his “little boy, gone missing.” No one had ever warned her otherwise.
But I had been warned. My antennae quivering in alarm, I crept ahead to peek around the bend in the road. To this day I am surprised I had either the foresight or the courage. (Was there an angel pressing me on?) My antennae nearly launched me into outer space when I saw the trap!
The car was turned 180 degrees, so as to be headed back in our direction. Stopped in the middle of the swamp, the engine was still running. The hood was up. The man appeared to be fixing something. He was standing there, by the front of the car. I must have stifled the urge to scream because I am still so inclined, thirty-odd years later. I carefully crept back to my friend.
J had yet to be convinced of the danger but alas, she was an innocent. We were some distance from my house. The only thing that occurred to me was to hide in the ditch. She conceded and we did, hoping the grass was sufficient cover.
It wasn’t long before we heard the hood slam, the door shut, and the tires turn. We held our breath as he drove ever so slowly past our hiding place. Amazed to remain undiscovered, we lay still for some time, barely breathing. When it finally felt safe, we scooted back to my house as fast as our legs would carry us.
The police report dead-ended and I repressed the frightful memory. But years later, driving down that road, it all came rushing back. I slowed where we hid and shuddered, appreciating the unlikely outcome. Even if the ditch was much deeper then, and the grass thicker and longer. Even though we were just kids. It was not much of a hiding place.
There is no doubt in my mind that we were protected from evil on that day. Incredibly, from the first time I allowed myself to fully revisit the memory, it includes an additional detail. In my mind’s eye, I see our niche in the shallow ditch covered by mighty wings.
This imagery has remained vivid for two decades. These are not the wings of a flighty songbird. These wings are like a shield. The feathers are long and layered so densely as to be impenetrable. They are mottled shades of gray and brown, melding into the scrub brush and dried grasses. They overlap slightly but are plenty broad to conceal what lies beneath. There is no hint of refugees in hiding here. This is a secure shelter, a safe place, a dry and warm haven.
When my children were little, I made up a simple tune to help them learn Psalm 91:11. He orders His angels to protect you wherever you go. I’ve often hummed it to myself, drawing courage from a promise I know — I know! — to be true. I’m so thankful for wings wide enough to hide — be they wings of angels or of God. I know that fledgling faith flourishes beneath.
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection... [Read more…]