78: A Mighty Hand

78: A Mighty Hand

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

A Mighty Hand

For I cried to him and he answered me! He freed me from all my fears.

~Psalm 34:4

In late fall of 1989 my marriage derailed. I packed up Patty, our six-year-old daughter, and moved to an apartment. My husband, Jake, stayed in our home, the house he’d built as a surprise for me only four years earlier.

We’d endured a crazy miserable winter. We started divorce proceedings, but Jake and I continued to see each other. By May we decided to try to put our marriage back on track. Our family reunited, but we faced another challenge. Jake had sold our home and signed the contract on another.

The sale proved especially hard on Patty. She’d spent the winter thinking of ways to help me. Early mornings I’d go into her room to wake her, but she’d bounce into my arms and say, “Surprise Mommy. I’m already dressed.” Throughout the horrible separation she never complained but continued to shower love on both her daddy and me. Now we were moving out of the small apartment, but she still couldn’t go home. It was gone.

She chose to replace her heartbreak with joy. “The house doesn’t matter so much. We’re us again!”

Armed with her insight and fresh hope, we went to see the new house. Jake ushered us through the front door. Patty ran off to explore while I stood dumbstruck in the split-level’s entryway.

Overhead, where an elegant chandelier should have welcomed visitors, a single bulb dangled like an interrogation light. Dingy gold-flecked wallpaper covered the stairwell walls like fungus. It crept into the middle of the living room where it abutted a country-scene wallpaper. A chair rail had been installed in half the room, coming to an abrupt stop midway through it.

The tour went downhill from there. The strange paint colors, the jungle scene mural in the master bedroom, and the missing fixtures still didn’t prepare me for the lower level. Hundreds of BB-gun holes pierced the animal print wallpaper in the dungeon-like “finished” basement.

Jake went to check on Patty and I slipped into the garish bathroom to hide my tears. I remembered the care we had put into building our beautiful former home. From counters to flooring, we’d made every choice with love. In comparison, this house’s demented design seemed to reflect the mess we’d made of our marriage.

But standing there in the grimy bathroom, I had a revelation. Patty and I had given our lives to the Lord that winter, and we’d asked God to restore our family. He’d answered our prayers, yet here I was sniveling about a house. I dried my tears and purposed to be grateful.

There was much to be thankful for. We had wonderful neighbors, and Patty became great friends with the girls nearby. Jake and I pieced our lives back together as we pieced together our peculiar new home. Most of the time we laughed our way through our ridiculous remodeling situations. Like the day we pulled down a damaged wall and a mound of used underwear tumbled out from between the studs.

In spite of my best intentions, sometimes melancholy crept in. I wished the cracks in our marriage could be mended as easily as the cracks in the walls. What we had lost weighed on me. The downgraded house seemed a symbol of our depreciated marriage.

One morning I picked up the Bible and read verse after verse about God’s restorative power. I knew He could restore us, but I needed to make a change. I told myself, “You can either pray or you can cry. Make a choice.” I decided to stop whining and, instead, ask God for help.

I also asked the Lord daily to put His angels around us to keep us safe while we repaired our marriage and our home. Jake excelled as a handyman, but he hated painting. So early in our marriage I’d taken over the task. This house desperately needed an exterior paint job, and I planned to start on my day off. Jake didn’t want me on the ladder without him nearby.

“What if you get hurt?” he asked.

“Relax,” I said, “I’m careful.”

“No you’re not,” he insisted. “Once you climb a ladder you always stretch too far.”

I let it drop, but as soon as he left for work I dragged out the paint and extension ladder. I made great progress. In one morning I’d painted half of the east side of the house before I hit a snag.

Directly under the roof peak, the eave sat inches out of reach, tantalizingly close. I felt sure the paintbrush could reach it if I only stretched a bit more. Jake’s warning rang in my mind, but I silenced it. After all, I’d been painting for years. I knew what I was doing.

At the top of the ladder, about twenty feet off the ground, I stood on tiptoe to reach the last unpainted inch of eave.

And felt the ladder tip backwards.

A thousand thoughts flashed through my mind in an instant as I fell back: glimpses of silent movies where the bumbling character rides the careening ladder to the ground; images of my broken body crumpled on the weedy lawn. And of course I thought about Jake’s warning: “Once you climb a ladder you always stretch too far.”

I dropped the paintbrush and grabbed for the ladder, but it was too late. It continued its backward arc with me clinging to it. There was no avoiding it. I was going to crash to the ground.

Toppling backward, tipped at a forty-five-degree angle, I cried out, “Jesus!”

Immediately, what felt like an enormous hand stopped my fall. It covered my back from waist to shoulder blades. For a moment I hung there, supported by the huge hand. Then it pushed me, still clinging to the ladder, gently back against the house.

I leaned my head against the wood siding while the hand held me secure. Once my trembling eased, the hand disappeared. I climbed down the rungs and noticed the fence behind me. I began shaking again, this time in awe.

If I’d fallen from that position on the ladder, the trajectory would have impaled me on the fence post below. I stood there whispering, “Thank you Jesus,” over and over. A Bible verse I’d read the day before came to mind: “For the Angel of the Lord guards and rescues all who reverence him.” Psalm 34:7

God heard my prayers, and He answered my desperate cry.

When Jake came home I showed him the ladder and shared what happened. He stared at it for a minute, then grabbed me and held on tight. We agreed that the God who held me steady could stabilize our marriage too.

We put ourselves into His mighty hands that day. And now over twenty years later He still holds us, bound together in love.

~Jeanie Jacobson

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