Have you ever wondered if you’ve been touched by an angel? It’s a fascinating thought, but what exactly is an angel? The Bible depicts them as messengers of God, sent to do His will. We’ve heard stories of their appearing, so we’re left wondering and watching.
I grew up in a small community, with loving parents and friendly siblings. In many ways, it was an idyllic childhood. My parents brought me to church and taught me my prayers, surrounding me with love and safety. Looking back, I can see there were few opportunities for them or my neighbors to leave hurtful scars.
I’ve always believed in angels. My mom remembers the time our family visited a cemetery and tells me that I wondered aloud whether the rest of my family members could hear the angels singing ...!
Eventually I named my guardian angel Jill. She was my imaginary companion and kept me both fascinated and fearful of the mysterious unseen world.
By the time I started high school, thoughts of my angel Jill were set aside. Life felt hectic, and the world seemed harsher. On a quest to be popular and pleasing to others, I lost track of myself.
It was during these busy years that my family welcomed new neighbors. Sally was a young newlywed, pregnant with her first child, when she moved next door. She loved the Lord in a way that was different and dynamic. My family was active in church, but as we grew to know Sally more, her faith reached new heights. She not only read her Bible, but she recited and applied it to everyday life.
My family soon noticed Sally’s unique qualities and secretly referred to her as our next-door angel. I remember walking home across our lawns, wishing I could be like Sally. But I believed it was hopeless because of our different denominations.
I need to tell you that Sally is beautiful. She's a thin, petite, Swedish woman with gorgeous blonde hair. Calling her an angel is not a big leap! She’s also educated and intelligent, with a quick wit and a beautiful laugh. She is the most demonstratively loving person I have ever met. Saying goodbye meant long, fierce hugs and words of affirmation. Sally is also the first and only person to call me darling and precious.
By the time I was college-bound, Sally had made her mark on my heart. I wanted to know and live out the vibrancy of the Bible like her, but my goal to be popular seemingly made that impossible.
Before I left home, Sally gifted me a pocket notebook filled with handwritten Bible verses. I was touched by her thoughtfulness and the time she’d sacrificed creating it. Although reading those verses reminded me of Sally, they didn’t find a home in my heart. It wasn’t actually a matter of belief, but rather, inwardly I knew I wasn’t willing to give what was required.
By my second year of college I was pregnant. I endured a quick marriage, which ended in divorce a few years later. During this time of struggling and sadness over the mess I’d made of my life, Sally anchored me. I’d often think about the things she modeled and the way she lived. If I visited her, she encouraged me. She assured me that God hadn’t given up on me and that He loved me. She prayed many prayers over my life.
My plans had left me empty and broken, and I knew that God was the answer. I had always believed in Him, but finally I surrendered my heart. All of it. In return, He brought forgiveness and peace, and like Sally, a love for His Word finally grew in me.
In reality I know that Sally isn’t technically an angel. She struggles with health issues and certainly doesn’t live in paradise. But God used Sally as His messenger to show me that He loves me and is worthy of my all, my whole self.
Sally still lifts me up in prayer and is available for me when I’m struggling. What I longed for was an intimate relationship with God. Because of Sally’s investment of love, encouragement and prayers, God has honored that desire. And He did it by giving me my very own next-door angel.