At the risk of being too repetitive I would like to share another “circle of life” experience I had today. You may not know this but one of my hobbies which I have been in love with for most my life is photography. I love to do photo series on themes. My latest has been focused on stone angels in cemeteries. Yes, a little on the dark side I know, but they have a unique beauty and peace to them. The circle I completed today is about how i got started shooting cemetery angels.
It was a pretty dark time in my life 10 or so years ago. I was unemployed with no prospects on the horizon, had gone through a faith shaking exit from ministry experience and was in the process of having my marriage brought to an end. I had no idea what was coming next in my life and could not bring myself to a “don’t worry be happy” frame of mind. I was in Nashville for the weekend and had just gotten out of a pretty disheartening counseling session. As I aimlessly drove around I turned into a cemetery, mostly because it represented exactly how I was feeling; dead, or at least dying, so being among tombstones felt right. I got out of the car and wandered among the markers casually noting names and dates when I noticed a statue sort of sitting out by itself, isolated from the other graves. I was drawn to it. When I got close enough I noticed it was an angel, clinging to a cross and looking upward with a sad expression that seemed to be pleading for something. In that moment I felt that this angelic sentinel of stone embodied all that I was feeling. With life so dark around me and losing most everything I had ever really believed in, I was barely clinging to any faith I had left, looking to God and pleading for what I did not know, just something. Today, I found that angel again.
On our way back to the Opryland hotel I managed, as I do so often, to go the wrong way and got ourselves lost…or so I thought. When I took an exit to get turned around Aspen yelled out, “Look daddy, a cemetery!” I immediately knew where we were. We turned into the cemetery and drove around for some time till finally, I saw that angel once again.
In the ten years or so since the day I first encountered that angel, God has brought me through a great many things. I can look back now and see very specifically how God put me in places to take care of me, restore me and bring me back to a place of joy. Today I am married to a beautiful, incredible and amazing woman who is more than I could have ever imagined, we have a five-year old daughter whom God gave us to fill our lives with joy and teach me things I never could have understood without her, and I’m again working in that field which God called me to when I was 12 years old (another story for another time). The angel looks different now. Originally it was covered with green moss which was slowly overtaking the statue and looked very worn and weathered. Today its been cleaned up and looks in much better shape. But as I looked upon it today it struck me that, just as this angel has been an unmoving and ever-present stone sentinel of time, so God has always been a constant presence in my life even during the times I could not see or feel Him. As this angel stood it’s watch through days and nights, unshakable in it’s duty, so God has had angels watching me, through all my days and nights, and unshakable in their watch and care for me.
Maybe I read too much into things. Maybe I’m just a bit too melancholy reflective and dramatic. But I tell you, when I saw that angel again today, I could have sworn it knew I was going to be there today and it’s expression had changed from one of desperate pleading all those years ago to one of joy…or maybe it’s just me.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified… for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:6