31: An Unlikely Protector

31: An Unlikely Protector

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels Among Us

An Unlikely Protector

It is not because angels are holier than men or devils that makes them angels, but because they do not expect holiness from one another, but from God alone.

~William Blake

In early 2001, our daughter Elizabeth was determined to take a bus trip from Iowa to Ohio to meet the young man she’d been writing to for several years. Her father and I weren’t very happy with her decision and were especially worried about the many stops in larger cities, but she dismissed our concerns. She was eighteen, had saved up enough money to make the trip, and nothing we said could dissuade her.

When we dropped her off at the bus stop, we hugged her tightly and warned her to be very careful. As the bus pulled away, I found myself saying a prayer for her safe arrival.

That very night, we watched a police drama where a young girl’s body was found behind a dumpster at a bus station. “An innocent Iowa girl, raped and murdered,” one police offer lamented to the other, after they discovered her identity. My blood ran cold. I looked up to see a matching fear in David’s eyes. We were thinking the same thing: We shouldn’t have let her go.

Neither one of us got much sleep that long night, tossing and turning and reaching out for each other’s hands. Over and over, we prayed for our daughter, repeating the same prayer I’d uttered under my breath at the bus stop: Please Lord, take care of our daughter on this journey. Watch over her.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Elizabeth finally called the next afternoon to say she’d arrived at her destination. I told her about the television program the night before, expecting her to tell me I was silly for worrying. Instead there was silence at the other end.

Then my daughter began telling me about the five-hour layover she had at 3:00 a.m., at a bus station that consisted of little more than a single locked building in the middle of nowhere. Just as she approached the door of the structure, a hulk of a man with long stringy hair and bulging tattooed biceps appeared from a nearby alley.

My terrified daughter twisted the doorknob back and forth frantically, to no avail. It was locked tight and there were no lights on inside.

Shoulders slumped in resignation, she did the only thing she could think to do; she sat down on her suitcase and began praying in earnest. She kept her eyes to the ground, trying to avoid eye contact with the fearsome stranger as he approached her.

When she finally dared to look up, the man was standing right in front of her. When he greeted her, she gulped back her fear enough to whisper a shaky hello. As he attempted to strike up a casual conversation, she bravely responded with one-word answers. He stood uncomfortably close to her as he talked. He asked her where she was headed and told her about the girlfriend he was headed to Florida to visit. She gradually relaxed as she realized that despite his rough exterior and language, he meant her no harm.

During the two hours that they stood alone outside, my daughter noticed at least three different vehicles filled with groups of young men drive by, one car circling at least twice. The men looked at my daughter, and then glanced at the big man standing next to her. None of them stopped.

By 5:15 a woman with a ring full of keys arrived, and as she opened the door to the station, Elizabeth heard the man mumble something, disappearing back into the alley. The attendant allowed her to enter the building, despite the fact that it wouldn’t officially open for another fifteen minutes.

Once Elizabeth was locked inside, the man returned and tried to open the door. My daughter called out to him that the station wouldn’t open until 5:30, and he nodded and walked away. She never saw him again.

Elizabeth waited inside the station for almost three hours, but never saw the man come into the building or get on a bus.

“Mom, if he hadn’t been there and one of those cars full of guys stopped, they could have done anything to me. I would have been totally alone in the middle of the night. I could have been that girl in the show you watched.”

I gasped in shock, but then Elizabeth added, “Mom, where did he go? The station wasn’t crowded. If he really had planned to get on a bus, why did he disappear once I was safe inside?”

I felt a warm sense of peace fill me. I knew then, without a doubt, that God had answered my prayers by sending that burly bodyguard to watch over my daughter. “He was God’s angel,” I told Elizabeth, but she wasn’t so sure.

“He didn’t look like an angel, or talk like an angel,” she responded uncertainly.

“If he had looked less intimidating, would his presence have hindered any of those cars from stopping?”

Beth went quiet as we both considered what might have happened if that formidable-looking man hadn’t been standing so protectively close to her.

Were it not for that fortuitous encounter at the closed bus station, Elizabeth might not have made it as far as Ohio to meet the young man who would eventually become her husband and the father of her three children.

I know for a fact that angels exist, though we might not always recognize them when they visit us. Sometimes God’s angel can be a big, burly man with tattooed arms.

~Mary Potter Kenyon

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