I was leaving a friend's house late one evening last week when I saw her in the lobby. A tall, dark-haired, beautiful woman in her mid-40's, crying softly as she sat on the bench. When she saw me she tried to conceal her tears.
For a minute I stood and felt a little awkward. Fiddled with my phone. Thought about what to do. Prayed for wisdom.
So tentatively I asked her (not wanting to be intrusive) "it's clear you're not ok, but is there anything I can do?"
She shrugged. "How could you possibly help?" Is what I imagined was going through her head. But I asked again.
"Do you just need a stranger to vent to about whatever is going on?"
She made eye contact and moved over on the bench, giving me room. As I sat next to her and we exchanged first names, she asked me only one question in an accented voice: "Do you know what pain is?" I said I did, but did not elaborate. That is all she knows about any of my story.
As she shared hers, of abuse and betrayal and of dreams that died, for a moment we were close friends. She had now found a man who was good, and she was afraid to love him; afraid of what betrayal of love can do. She knows first hand the consequences. Every day she went to church to ask God for clarity. She trusted that He would answer her.
I prayed for her outside before I left, as she savoured a cigarette with her head bowed. Then unprompted she prayed for me too, and said a blessing over me. Then she grabbed my shoulders and looked me squarely in the eye and said emphatically "You need to know that everything's going to be ok. Things will be just fine again".
Now you need to know, in the last 6 months, I have been asking God to tell me that things will be ok again, someday. I don't know if I believe that yet, everything is still just too raw. And had anyone who knew me even suggested words like "fine" or "ok" I would have scoffed at them in my heart even if my lips agreed. What does anyone know of fine or ok who has lost what I have lost?
But from this stranger, her words spoke straight to my heart. She had been given a message to pass on to me, whether she knew that or not. It's hard to say if I believe it yet... But I have hope that someday I will.
So I don't know if I have ever seen an angel, but if I have, she is a tall dark haired woman who hails from another country, smokes cigarettes, and has been broken by pain. And from that place she has reminded me of a promise of a future and a hope.