I wanted to put down in writing an event that happened to me many years ago.
Back in 1985 I was in the middle of a very nasty divorce from my first wife. Things had gone horribly sideways and spilled over into my job. Sparing all the nasty details, suffice to say I had a breakdown of epic proportions. For weeks I couldn’t function, I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and when I did sleep, I was plagued with nightmares. Early one day I grabbed a few things and just began to drive.
I had little money and was in a very dark place mentally. Although I had been raised Christian and grew up in church, I was very far away from God and was living a non-Christian life. As I drove I was in a cloud, I could only see darkness, pain and despair in my future. I could imagine no happiness, no joy, and no future. Suffice to say, I considered my life over at the age of twenty two.
I drove north from Texas and found myself in Oklahoma City. There I turned eastward towards my childhood home of Tennessee. As I drove my despair clouded my perception and I became more and depressed. I really felt like I was driving myself straight into the gates of hell.
Somewhere in eastern Oklahoma I pulled in for fuel and a restroom break. Afterwards, as I continued my journey, I noticed a man standing at the side of the interstate on ramp looking for a ride. He was dressed rather peculiarly for the middle of summer, wearing a long old west style slicker and an ivy cap, sometimes known flat cap or duckbill cap. The reason I noticed him was because, in my mind, he bore a striking resemblance to the Gyro Captain from the Road Warrior film.
I continued my journey and thought nothing more of it. Soon I was forced to stop again as I suddenly needed to use the restroom very badly, which was unusual, as I could, and still do often drive for hundreds of miles without stopping. I completed my bathroom break and turned my car back toward Interstate 40. As I turned onto the on ramp my eyes were drawn to another hitchhiker looking for a ride. Only it was not another hitchhiker, it was the very same person I had seen a short time earlier at my previous stop. I am quite sure I did a double take on seeing him.
For reasons that I did not understand at the time, but have become clearer later in my life, I pulled over and offered him a ride. He got in the car and thanked me for the lift. In a short time he began to make what I first assumed was small-talk. It was far from small-talk, it was as though he could read my soul. He talked about life’s heartache and troubles. It soon became clear that he appeared to know more about me and my troubles than he should. He turned the subject to God and his many blessings. Now more than thirty three years later I don’t remember what all he said, but he seemed to have just the right words I needed to hear. It was, for lack of a better word, miraculous the way he seemed to be able to speak to my soul and lift the burdens I felt were crushing my very spirit. He rode with me the rest of the afternoon. By the time we were approaching Little Rock Arkansas I felt like a new person. He promised me that everything would work out. He said I was just beginning on a new journey and he assured me that God had good things in store for me in the future.
It was very late in the afternoon as we entered Little Rock, the sun was just setting and I decided to get a motel for the night. I stopped at a corner to let him out of the car so he could continue on his way. Before exiting the car he asked me if I could spare a little money for food. I told him that I never give money to strangers because I couldn’t know if it was just to be wasted on alcohol or drugs. I would however be happy to buy him some food. He graciously accepted my offer and I tuned into a nearby convenience store parking lot and went in the store.
All these years later I can still remember exactly what I bought for him that evening. I purchased a pack of bologna, a half-gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. I also picked up some condiments as well as a candy bar for desert. After paying for the items, I exited the store and found him waiting by my car. I handed him the bag of food and thanked him for making me feel better. He, in turn, thanked me for the ride and food. I got in my car and started it; placing the car in reverse I looked around to be sure I wouldn’t hit him backing out, I couldn’t see him anywhere. Because it had only been a moment since he walked toward the rear of my car, I was concerned that possibly he had tripped and fallen behind me. I did not want to back over him, so I placed the car in park and got out to make sure he was clear.
He was nowhere to be seen. I walked around the car, and then I walked around the only other car in the parking lot, nothing. I went in the store and asked the cashier if the gentlemen in the long coat had come in. He said no one had come in since I had walked out. Confused, I walked back outside and walked out to the street-corner and looked all four ways. There was no one to be seen. I walked around and looked behind the building, nothing. I even got down on my knees and looked under my car as well as the other car in the parking lot, nothing. The man had disappeared as though he was a ghost. There is no way, even if he had run, could he have gotten out of sight as fast as he did. The man and the bag of food I had given to him had vanished without a trace, gone as though they never existed.
Finally, I gave up, went a short ways down the road and rented a motel for the night. I went in, took a shower, said a short prayer, and then, for the first time in weeks, I slept like a baby, all night, peaceful and dreamless. The next morning I awoke feeling refreshed and invigorated. The mental clouds were gone, the burden was lifted, and I felt like a completely new man. I continued my journey eastward with a new zest for life.
Eventually I traveled on to Michigan, and then to Florida, where I met a woman slightly older than myself. After my divorce was final, we were married and now more than thirty years later, are still together. The man was right, everything did work out, my wife and I have had a good life. There have been difficulties, and at times the road has been rocky, but the good far outweighs the bad.
I am convinced that the man that rode with me all those years ago was an angel. Often I have looked back on that dark day and wonder where I would be today if it were not for that man’s intervention. Seeing what I was going through, and where I was heading, I fully believe that I would have been in prison or even dead had he not been standing on the side of the road that day. It humbles me and makes me wonder what God saw in me that he would send me an angel.
Since that day, I have often thought of Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. I know many will not believe me, my story or my conclusion. That is your prerogative; however I shall always thank God for the angel that was sent my way that day back in 1985.