Although I hadn't thought about it in exactly that way before, it was true. My grandmother raised me after my parents divorced when I was very young, and from the beginning I'd felt loved and protected. She knelt with me beside my bed every night to pray, teaching me that she wasn't the only one looking out for me. God was is His Heaven.
My wife and I had just spent a few days at my grandmother's house in the southern US State of Virginia for Christmas. We'd been married only a couple of years back then in 1967, but my wife Virginia soon felt as close to Grandma as I did, and neither of us wanted to leave. We had to get home to Greenville, South Carolina, though. We both had part-time jobs at a shop in town, plus classes were about to resume at the small college where I taught language arts and science.
I yawned, settling into the seat as Virginia pulled away from the curb. We'd been up since dawn. The trip would take only five hours, but winter days are short and we wanted to get back before nightfall. "If you are tired, let me know," I offered.
"Thanks," she said. "I'm fine." The Chevy had been my wife's car before our marriage, and she liked to do the driving.
We crossed the state line into North Carolina. I was busy making course outlines in my head as we turned onto I-85 outside Greensboro. "Bill, I think it's going to snow," Virginia said. Dark clouds were gathering on the horizon. We hadn't heard anything about a storm. Within the next hour, however, snow started swirling around us. Virginia and I had both driven through storms, so we pressed on, hoping this would let up.
Instead the snow came down harder. Soon we were barely creeping along. Virginia and I prayed for God to get us through, with the trusting belief I'd been taught by Grandma. By noon the roaring wind had heaped massive drifts across the highway. The snow was mixed with sleet and froze on the car. Even at full speed, the windshield wipers couldn't keep up. Virginia leaned over the streering wheel, peering through the cleared areas in the glass.
"Maybe we should pull off," I suggested. "Where?" answered Virginia, a worried edge in her voice. Both shoulders of the highway were buried in snow, and there wasn't a road sign in sight.
Where were we ? We hadn't spotted a rest area for miles. Leaving the highway could be dangerous. We might roll over in a ditch. Or get stranded on a side road.
I sat forward, pressing my hands against the dashboard, trying to help my wife see the way ahead. We continued slowly, the wipers bumping across the ice on the windshield. I'd travelled this road many times, but I didn't even know if we were still on the highway. There weren't any other cars.
"Bill!" Virginia gasped, gripping the streering wheel, "I can't see where to go!" The wipers had stopped, frozen on the glass. Virginia tapped the brakes, slowing us to a crawl.
I rolled down the window and reached around the windshield for the wiper on my side. Sleet stung my eyes. I tugged repeatedly at the wiper, my hand chilled to the bone inside my glove. The wiper wouldn't budge. I looked for road signs, but couldn't see any through the blinding snow.
The wind whipped against my face. "God," I pleaded, "only You can guide us through this storm." As I started to roll up the window I heard an unmistakable command in my head: Hold on to your belief. Peace filled me, warming me from head to toe. Light streamed through the windshield, dissolving the ice. And then I saw him. A few feet in front of the car there was a being with shimmering wings, clothed in a flowing robe whiter than the snow. He extended his arm, gesturing to the road ahead.
I touched my wife's hand. She was inching us along, staring out of the windshield, apparently seeing nothing but snow. "We're going to make it," I whispered. "Drive in that direction."
"Are you sure?" she asked. I nodded, pointing the way just as I was being shown. Slowly we proceded through the blizzard, Virginia following my directions as carefully as I followed the angel's. He stayed with us for hours. Every time the car strayed, I saw him gesture for us to move right or left, setting us back on track.
As the storm gradually let up, our guide seemed to fade away too, until he was no longer with us. Had I really seen him at all ? Obviously Virginia hadn't, and I wondered whether to tell her about my vision.
Finally we spotted a rest area we recognized. We were about 20 miles from the Greenville city limits and stopped to stretch our legs. I wasn't ready yet to talk about what I had seen.
When we got back into the car, the engine wouldn't start. There was no telephone in the rest area. "How will we get help," Virginia asked. "Hold on to your belief," I said, hoping I could give her the same sense of assurance those very words had given me.
Then I saw a station wagon parked in the distance, and before I could walk toward it, a woman emerged from the passenger side. She and her husband were from Atlanta, travelling with another couple. "We'll be glad to take you to Greenville," she said after I told her our predicament.
We got in their car, and she introduced us to her husband and friends. As we pulled onto the highway, the woman turned to us. "You know," she said, "we passed you earlier. In that terrible storm we couldn't see any other cars on the road, but we couldn't help noticing yours." The woman paused, then looked intently at Virginia and me. "There were bright streams of light circling your car," she said. "Like a halo."
"I can't imagine what it was," said Virginia. But I could. Hold on to your belief, the voice had said out there in the storm. I squeezed Virginia's hand. God does provide. Now I would be able to tell my wife and my grandmother exactly how much.