40: Divine Heat

40: Divine Heat

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

Divine Heat

For He will give His angels charge concerning you… they will bear you up in their hands.

~Psalm 91:11,12

Heat shimmered over the large flagstone plaza in Mexico City. Trying to entertain my two toddlers, Ben and Andy, was getting tedious. Their dad and I were taking turns browsing in the tourist shop that adjoined the plaza. It was my turn to be outside with the boys. Ben had just turned three years old. Andy was one year old — walking, but unsteadily — like a typical toddler.

In the heart of a bustling city of nine million people, the plaza was relatively deserted with just a few pedestrians. Nobody lingered in the heat. Even the paleta (popsicle) vendor tucked himself carefully under the shade of his cart’s umbrella. The ubiquitous smell of cornmeal and diesel fuel filled the air and the tall buildings surrounding the plaza pleasantly muffled the cacophony of the city.

We lived in Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico, working for a relief organization. Andy had been born there, and we had finally made the two-day drive to Mexico City to get his Certificate of Birth Abroad at the American Embassy. We were doing a little shopping before we started the long drive home.

Squat stone walls surrounded flower and tree beds on the plaza. Very low, the walls were perfect for little boys to climb on, balance on, walk on, and jump off. I tried to keep us squeezed into a little sliver of shade, but the boys were too active. Over and over they scrambled on the little walls. Andy wobbled after his big brother, up and down, back and forth. Sometimes I would walk with him, his chubby fist clutching my finger. Sometimes he wanted to do it by himself, while I stood close by. So far, so good.

What was taking my husband so long? The wait became more monotonous. The boys were getting wound up and bored. They left the little square where we were seated and moved on to the next one a little further away from me.

Tired of trying to confine them to our little area, I asked myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I remained where I was but watched them carefully, more concerned about sunburn than falls. When they tired of the next square, they moved on to the next. And then the next. I never took my eyes off them.

Andy moved farther away and climbed up on a new wall by himself, putting one unsteady foot in front of the other, walking like he was on a balance beam. I watched, amused, for a moment or two. Suddenly, my “mom radar” went off. There was something not quite right about this, but the danger wasn’t clear. Languid from the heat, I got up and moved slowly toward him to check things out. “You’re so overprotective,” I chided myself. After all, if he did fall, it seemed unlikely he’d be hurt.

Then, everything happened at once. Andy tripped and started to fall. His arms and legs spread out like he was doing a belly flop — like he was flying. It appeared that he was going to land on the other side of the wall, not on the flagstone. Abruptly, I realized that I didn’t really know what was on the other side of the wall. I assumed it was a flowerbed, and the fall would be tiny. But my level of concern ratcheted up a notch and I started moving faster.

A rush of something — wind? an angel? — surged ahead of me. The subdued, tremulous heat waves that I had been watching all afternoon focused themselves into a swirl, a force with real presence. It pushed toward Andy, surrounded him, and held him up. Andy hovered. Yes, he simply hovered in the air. No slow motion falling, no twisting, no crying — he just hovered. The force was quietly holding him, like a hoist beneath his tummy, waiting…

The concern I had felt turned into terror. I sprinted, inclined myself over the wall, and stretched out my arm toward Andy. As I leaned, I could see beyond — below, really — and my stomach lurched. It was a void — a two-story drop to an underground parking entrance below. Cars were whizzing into the garage. One car slowed, its terrified driver and passenger looking up in horror at Andy suspended in the air above their car.

I scooped Andy safely back from his hovering space and my adrenaline-infused legs collapsed beneath me on the flagstone plaza. I clutched him, shaking all over. The glimmering air descended around us as if to check us over. Seeing the baby safely in Mom’s arms on solid ground, it playfully tousled my hair as if to say “goodbye,” and dissipated back into its slow lazy dance over the plaza.

Just then, my husband came out of the store. He hurried over to where we sat huddled in a heap. “What’s wrong?” he asked, his brow furrowed. How could I explain Andy hovering in the air? How could I explain the angel holding Andy up, waiting for me to rescue him? How could I explain a two-story drop onto pavement below? How could I explain the cars rushing by directly beneath Andy? How could I explain that the angel knew what a mom didn’t and rushed in to save Andy? The law of gravity applies to everyone, no matter who you are. The law of gravity was not suspended just for Andy — rather someone or something suspended him. How could I explain this?

There is no explanation. Since that time, I have struggled through many difficult events in my life, wishing to receive that same kind of miraculous, divine help — and yet, not appearing to receive any help at all. It’s tempting to feel lonely or abandoned at those times. And yet, I still have my son and I remind myself the one angelic encounter I had was the difference between life and death. So heat waves shimmering on a hot summer day are a comfort now, not an annoyance, because I know a new truth: We never know what form our angel will take or when it will show up.

~Sharon Cairns Mann

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