By Barbara C. Porter, Tempe, Arizona
THE TRUTH OF A CHILDHOOD VISION WAS CONFIRMED IN A MOMENT OF CRISIS
My family lived in a two-story frame house on Sixth Street in Marion, Indiana, when I was four. In the large, fenced backyard there was an old pear tree from which my father had hung a swing. How I loved that swing! Sitting on it, pumping with my legs, rising higher and higher, I seemed to sweep over the fence and into the blue sky, almost to heaven itself.
Usually my mother called me in at twilight, but one evening I played in the backyard in the gathering dark. I had just jumped off the swing when the grass became resplendent in front of me. Looking up, I gazed into a man's face. He was tall - taller than my father, who stood six feet one, taller than anyone I had ever seen. The man seemed to be made of pure light. He held a large double-edged sword, the hilt set with jewels more vibrant than anything I'd ever seen.
I was shy with strangers, especially adults, but I was not scared. "Who are you?"
"I speak for I Am," he said. I didn't understand those words, but I repeated them until they were fixed in my mind.
Finally my mother called me and I ran to the house. Glancing back, I saw my visitor grow taller and taller until he was higher than the pear tree. His light gradually faded and dispersed into the falling darkness. When I told my mother I had been talking with a man out by the swing she was frightened. Who was this stranger? How had he gotten into the yard? My father overheard us and took me into his study.
"Describe this person," Dad said. My father listened. The son of a clergyman and a serious student of religion, he knew about God's messengers. At last he announced, "You have met the Archangel Michael." I was astounded.
Growing up, I came to understand more about archangels. I even learned the meaning of those words I had memorized as a child, "I Am" being one of God's names in the Bible. "I speak for I Am" was almost a job description. Michael was God's messenger. Most important, I could still experience the comfort I had known that summer eve.
I left home to get my B.A. and M.A. degrees, taught, married, had a daughter. My husband, Spencer, was a chemistry professor, and there came difficult times in a tough job market in the early 1970s when he went from one temporary appointment to another. While he taught in a small college associated with St. Meinrad's Archabbey at St. Meinrad, Indiana I was often sustained by joining the monks in prayer. One one particular day, when my inner world was in disarray, I joined the community for Lauds. As I knelt at the small prayer desk, the phrase came to me, "I send you Michael, who has never left you..." Yes, my soul sang, he is still here with me!
Then, 15 years ago, I experienced another encounter. My husband had accepted a sabbatical appointment in Arizona State University in Tempe. With our daughter, then 14, we had been spending the summer at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California and set out from there to drive to Arizona. We ventured into the Mojave ill-prepared. Our car did not have air conditioning, so we stopped at the edge of the desert and bought jumbo-sized drinks with lots of ice. We were drinking them slowly when miles from nowhere disaster struck: a flat tire.
We piled out of the car. The heat from the asphalt was so intense it burned my feet through the soles of my loafers. Spencer opened the trunk to find the spare and the jack but he couldn't get to them. Our daughter's metal storage trunk, with all her riding gear in it, was on top and too hot to touch.
Just then a small red sports car pulled over and stopped. A remarkably tall young man with light blond hair that seemed to glow in the desert light stepped toward us. "Let me do that," he said. With his bare hands he easily lifted out Laura's trunk, removed the tire and jack, and repaired the flat - all in a matter of minutes.
Spencer thanked him and hurried to the driver's side. "We sure were lucky that you came along," he said. Laura jumped into the backseat. Standing behind the car, I asked, "What is your name?" as I had addressed a strangely similar individual long ago. He threw his arm up in farewell and blessing, "I am Michael," he said.
I got back into our car and the sports car pulled away. The heat sent mirages dancing ahead of us for miles, but we never again saw the red sports car.
I've had much joy in my life. I've also had trials and pain, but their full power has always somehow been deflected. When I sit down at my desk in the morning to begin my day's work I am conscious of divine direction and the presence of the archangel He has given charge over me: Michael, who speaks - and acts - for the I Am.
This was one of my favorite stories. It gives one such hope that we are watched over.