I’ll never forget that day… and that strange ride on the MTA!
“Do you believe in angels, Mom?” I remember my son Mike’s long-ago question as if it was yesterday. He was at an age that can often weary a young mother, and my fairly preoccupied response to my little boy’s question was a decided “No!”
Personally, I had never seen an angel, and had long-since placed the possibility of such a creature alongside Santa Claus and other childhood tales!
It would be a long time before I’d read a Bible and a verse that says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained ANGELS.”1
It was the summer of 1984… months since the Lord had broken into my misery at a large Nashville church. Carrying a huge chip on my shoulder, I had gone there at what seemed the bottom of my life, arrogantly challenging Him to “show” Himself. The Bible says, “Seek and you will find.” 2 I should have been squashed like a bug on a windshield, but was stunned, to say the LEAST, when the Lord spoke right out loud to me. My stony heart crumbled!
My living situation would not be quick to change then, but my perspective on almost everything else had instantly and miraculously flip-flopped. By now, I was sure I wouldn’t be at all surprised to meet up with a real live ANGEL.
But THIS one would definitely be a surprise!
The alarm clock startled me at 5:30 that morning. It seemed only minutes before I had finally fallen asleep after a rough night of coughing and sneezing. A quick swipe at the frosted bedroom window with a rumpled tissue told me that at least it had stopped raining. But something was wrong—more wrong than the fact of this monster head cold!
Most days now, I woke with a deep inner peace and assurance that God’s mercies are new every morning.3 I had kept a positive outlook that, “Surely this will be the day I find a job!” But this morning was different.
Still hoping for a car, I had been job hunting by way of the Nashville Metro Transit Authority (the “MTA”). I’d never gotten used to the smell of diesel fumes, for all the years I sang with Grand Ole Opry star Whispering Bill Anderson, touring on his Silver Eagle bus. But, that’s another story.
The thought of bus fumes this morning only added to my nausea, but going back to sleep was not an option. I had a job interview at Belmont College (now University), and I needed to work. The mirror told me it would take the “big guns” to make myself look at all presentable. “Nobody wants to hire an ex-roadie-turned-Jesus-freak, anyway!” I whimpered. Numerous job applications had turned up nothing solid. No one seemed to understand, my life had changed so much and I didn’t plan to head out on the next show bus.
But, the days had dragged on, and my faith was sagging for the first time since hearing God whisper, “You’re going home, Susan!” How could I ever lose heart after that, I wondered? Still, here I was. Poor, sick pitiful me!
Prayers for Passengers
The interview at Belmont went well enough, as it turned out, and I got the job. But, my head had pounded as I left the campus that day and boarded the #2 Belmont bus headed downtown. The familiar publishing houses and recording studios flashed by the windows as the bus wound through Music Row toward Broadway, where I would have to wait for yet another bus to take me home.
Months before, I’d promised God that, as long as I had to ride the MTA, I would pray for every soul I rode with every day. I had kept that promise, but this day I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want to have to try to talk to others, even about Jesus, the love of my life; certain my witness would be less than inspiring. “Forgive me, Lord, guess I’m not a very good servant today!” Self-pity had settled in like my cold.
Forgetting to ‘Entertain Strangers’
I was seated in one of those sideways seats upfront, behind the driver, when the bus came to a stop and an elderly black woman got on. Toting a couple of large plastic bags, she quickly flopped all of herself and her treasures onto the seat right beside me. Only four or five other people were scattered about the bus and, “She has to sit down right next to me,” I thought. “I’ll pray for her, Lord, but please don’t ask me to talk to anybody today.”
The old woman’s chocolate eyes sparkled and smiled, almost as broadly as the toothy grin that exaggerated her otherwise small, weather-worn face. “What does she have to be so joyful about?” I groused silently behind a token smile. Before long, I would have the answer.
I couldn’t help but notice, she wore several layers of old clothes, likely her entire wardrobe. Buttons strained to hold multiple sweaters together. Nothing matched anything else; from the brown knit hat that covered most of her salt and pepper hair, to the out-sized granny shoes on her feet. It was all I could do not to laugh, despite my resolve to bask in a pity party. But that, I tried reminding myself, was not what my new life was about at all!
Stranger than Imagined
“Okay, Lord,” I finally yielded, “If you want me to tell her about your Son, you have to give me an opening!”
Surprisingly, SHE spoke first.
She was full of information about the history of “Music City.” Her thick brown knee socks sagged annoyingly, I thought. But, it only allowed her constantly animated hands one more lively gesture, as she gave the socks an occasional tug. She talked about the weather and the city’s plans to turn the old Union Station Depot on Broadway into a “fancy” hotel.
Surely, I thought, she would take a breath and I would be able to say something. Feebly, I tried to jump in a time or two, but I guess the most I was ever able to say was, “Well, I…” or “Yes, but…,” and she was off, onto another subject.
Don’t get me wrong, she certainly wasn’t boring or negative—in fact, she was downright funny! But, getting a word in edgewise, I decided, would take a sure act of God.
Finally, the bus came to another stop and this irritatingly joyous—but “lost” I was afraid—“bag lady” jumped up, straightened her bundles, and prepared to get off the bus.
“Well,” she said, wrestling comically with her bulging load, “Nice talkin’ to ya!”
I smiled weakly and nodded, feeling like a complete failure for not being more forthright to tell her about Jesus. She shot one last oversized grin at me and, elbows high, hauled her bundles down the bus steps.
“I blew it! I’m sorry, Lord,” I sulked, wishing I was home in bed. “Now she’ll probably never know You!” A sympathetic smile, if not a big LOL, must have filled the Lord’s face—no doubt shaking His head over my still infantile faith.
Half-way down the steps, that funny old woman turned and ambled nimbly back up toward me. Now, placing a dark, ancient hand on my knee and searching my eyes with a depth and compassion I hadn’t noticed before, she said, “Don’t ever stop talking about Him!”
Then she leaned in closer and said again… “Don’t you EVER stop talking about Him!”
Touched By An Angel
I must have turned angel-robe white! I hadn’t been able to say a word to the old “woman” about God, my faith, or even myself on that bus ride down Broadway. I sat stunned as the bus door closed behind her, and she was gone. I mean, she was just gone! I looked both ways on the street. Gone!
It occurred to me, she hadn’t had those bundles in her hands when she stepped back up those stairs. More amazing, I wasn’t feeling ill anymore either! A renewed joy started in my heart and crept up all over me as I realized what had just happened.
“Oh my gosh, Lord, that wonderful old street person was from You!” Tears flowed even as I wanted to laugh right out loud at God’s sense of humor and the method He’d used to lift my spirits. He had sent an unlikely messenger to encourage me that I was on the right track, even if it looked just plain “crazy” to the whole world.
I was more assured than ever that God’s word is true. Angels ARE real! Sometimes they even ride the MTA!
For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways …Psalm 91:11
[From Susan Beyer’s book, Above “Reality”: Where Miracles Happen and Healing Begins – Available at Amazon.com]
References above: 1 Hebrews 13:2, 2 Matthew 7:7-8, 3 Lamentations 3:22-23