Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Entertaining Angels Unawares

(I have sat on this particular blog post for several weeks now, trying to convince myself that I am not crazy.  But I cannot get out of my head the notion that this might have been a God experience.  I figured I will just tell you, and let the chips fall as they may. -E.A.)

I could hear the popping sound as clear as day even amid the noise of the scrimmage game going on as my right ankle buckled and I collapsed to the ground.

At first, it felt like a run-of-the-mill ankle sprain--something that, over the course of twenty-some years of playing organized and pickup soccer, I am reasonably accustomed to suffering and subsequently DIY treating.  But the pain lingered higher up my ankle, in the area where my Achilles tendon attaches to my leg.

It wasn't a full tear of my right Achilles--which is one of the toughest of all athletic injuries to recover from.  I knew that it wasn't a full tear, and after talking to Carrie, she confirmed that my foot and ankle would be in much worse shape if that had been the case--but the more I noticed the location of the pain and recalled the popping noise, the more I was sure I had made at least a small rupture in the tendon.  So I went about my usual DIY treatment regimen: ice, elevation, compresses, etc.  I kept my right foot in a brace for a couple of weeks before flying down to Berkeley, California in mid-June to serve as a groomsman at my seminary roommate's wedding.

And the wedding was beautiful--it took place in the botanical gardens in Berkeley's Tilden Park.  But the specific spot of the outdoor wedding was on a lawn that sloped downward, and as such, trying to balance my stocky, 6'3" frame on an unsteady Achilles tendon proved to be an intense exercise in pain exacerbation.

A funny thing happened, though, on the plane ride back to Portland that I took that night: a mother and her four-year-old daughter sat next to me on the plane, and for the most part, it was a rather uneventful ride.  The girl was a fantastic traveler, and despite the constant dull throbbing I felt in my foot, I even managed the impossible: falling asleep on a plane with a little kid sitting right next to you.

But as we were beginning our descent, she looked over to stare out the window over the green Portland landscape as the plane slowly descended, and she finally became interested in this big bald fellow she had been sharing a plane ride with for the past two hours.  Her eyes getting big, she pointed at me and squealed, "YOU HAVE NO HAIR!!"

All I could do was laugh.  Her mother was embarrassed, I think, but I could not have cared less--I am perfectly fine being completely bald.

But it was enough for this little girl and me to chatter up a storm for the short remainder of the flight, and as I got up to set my bags on my shoulder, we waved goodbye to each other.

Then I started walking.

And I noticed that I was walking completely pain-free for the first time in weeks.

It wasn't a fluke, either--within three days, I was able to complete a 5K on the elliptical, and within another three weeks, I had returned to my normal level of fitness: 4 miles at a resistance of 10 or 11.  I have not only stayed pain-free, I have recovered.

And all I could think about afterwards was that verse from Hebrews 13: do not forget to entertain strangers, for in doing so, some have unknowingly entertained angels.

And I'm not saying that my Achilles would still be hurting if I hadn't talked and laughed with this little girl.  But the difference in how it felt was so stark, it was like night and day.  I have to think something happened.

And I realize that millions of other people seek miracles of healing and never find them.  Which is what really keeps me from indulging in enough hubris to be certain that that's what this was.  It is hard for me to say that I have had a miracle when so many other people need healing much more urgently than I do.  There is something in humility and humbleness that I feel like should keep me from claiming that.

But...for weeks of searing pain being taken away, I am immensely grateful.

For having the gift of my mobility return to me, I am very grateful.

And no matter which way you cut it, I know that I have God to thank for my health and my wholeness.

And so I pray that I might continue to entertain angels unawares.

Yours in Christ,


  1. I know that we do indeed "entertain angels unawares"; and do so on a daily basis, most often without recognizing it. Thank you for sharing your experience!! It made me smile, and cry, at the same time!! God bless!

  2. Janet--

    Thank you for your kind words, I am glad it spoke to you!