By Gary “Crusty the Christian” Piper
On Friday August 12, 2016 along with my wife Patti, Bonnie and Jon Teeple we descended deep in the earth going where I’ve been before but probably should not have gone this time. We were on a tour of Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend, Tennessee. I say I probably should not have gone because of 4 blocked coronary arteries and 52% lung capacity due to pulmonary fibrosis and a very large number of steep stairways. The descent wasn’t a problem for me but when we started back up things got very difficult for me. In fact 3 or 4 times I began to feel the beginning symptoms of an angina or heart attack. However keeping my concerns to myself I plugged away stopping to rest and catch my breath when I could. I had the capability of testing my oxygen level but decided not to because that would have told Patti I was having more trouble than she could already see I was having and probably would have gone ballistic on me and panicked. In retrospect Tuckaleechee Caverns is not for those with heart and pulmonary problems but WOW it was worth it!
I am not sure at what point I noticed a young couple (probably in the late twenties or early thirties following us but during one of my stops while everyone else walked past me those two stop and began looking around as if they were trying to go unnoticed. After that happened a few times I told them they didn’t need to wait for me, they could go on, ”We’re okay,” the man said, “we’re in no hurry.” A few times later I began to suspect they had picked up on the difficulties I was having and were shadowing me in case I began running into more trouble than I could handle. Perhaps one or both of them were members of the medical profession and had picked up on my struggle to breath, I thought to myself.
At one point our tour guide stopped for a few minutes and I lost track of them thinking they’d decided to go off on their own but a few minutes later after the group began walking again I noticed they once again following. By now I’d figured they were indeed shadowing me in case I did run into trouble and a few minutes later because of their presence I felt my fears began to ease and in spite of the continued chest pain and shortness of breath a feeling of peace began settling in. I was able to enjoy the tour of the cavern because I knew deep inside I was going to be okay. And more than that each time I glanced back and saw them the feeling of comfort increased.
Now as I think back on what happened while deep in the earth two things haunt me. Why did I wait until now to tell anyone what was happening to me and in me. And why didn’t at some point on our way back to the surface did I not strike up a conversation with them. I am typically not a very good conversationalist when it comes to strangers but now as I look back something was telling me even though I didn’t know them they were not really strangers. But what’s just as strange Jon who talks to everyone didn’t strike up a conversation with them either.
After the tour was over while sitting on a bench we watched as the couple walked up the stairs leading to the main level we waved and told them thank you they waved back and said it was okay. Seconds later they could not be found in the main level or the parking lot. It never occurred to me that they were no more than just two concerned strangers “Good Samaritans” ready to help me if the occasion arose, until this morning anyway. This morning while I was making the bed Patti asked me if I thought the entire incident was a little strange. Suddenly the word Angel flashed into my mind. Since then my mind has been racing, trying to remember if there were any more clues as to who they were or what they were but the only thing that resonates with me was they were always there, always waiting with us when I needed to stop and moving with us when I could go on again.
Over the years I’ve read stories of people who have had experiences with Angels and now I find myself telling of my own story. However, I need to say at this point I am not totally convinced it was a true encounter with Angels. Having said that I also need to tell you I consider myself an optimist therefore if there’s a possibility keeping in mind, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” (Hebrews 13:2, NLT), they indeed were Angels until I prove to myself otherwise.
The dilemma facing me now is how can I prove or disprove to myself they were real Angels. Disproving something is easy, just refuse to believe and as long as you keep refusing to believe something eventually, to you at least that something will not exist even though it may indeed exist. And on the other side of that coin keep believing in something and it will become a reality to you even though it may not exist. Remember the “God is dead” movement a few years ago? Note, in response to that movement there has been a couple of movies suggesting that God is indeed very much alive and well.
My point is there is no real way of proving or disproving whether or not my mysterious Tuckaleechee Cave Angels were real or not. The end result of my investigation lie in my faith, based on scriptural and circumstantial evidence. First, does the bible reveal the existence of Angels? Yes, after doing a search in the New Living Translation of the bible there are 108 verse references to Angels.
Before going further I need to add one more thing. I thought perhaps there were in one of the pictures we took while down in the cave but no such luck. There is no proof they were ever there except their pictures that have been burned into our memories. Perhaps Bonnie has a picture of them on her phone. I’ll check with her later.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia suggests that with Jesus’ advent in the world the ministry of Angels has been limited; it does suggest however there is still work for Angels to do. “The visible activity of angels has come to an end, because their mediating work is done; Christ has founded the kingdom of the Spirit, and God’s Spirit speaks directly to the spirit of man. This new and living way has been opened up to us by Jesus Christ, upon whom faith can yet behold the angels of God ascending and descending. Still they watch the lot of man, and rejoice in his salvation; still they join in the praise and adoration of God, the Lord of hosts, still can they be regarded as “ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation.”
“…still can they be regarded as ‘ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation.’” While this may not be scriptural I choose to see it as such, for me it is the “circumstantial proof” that seeds and is even now germinating in my spirit giving me permission to believe God did indeed send two Angels to minister to me and if necessary minster me back to health should something had terribly gone wrong. For me this is my first encounter with Angels and it will take me quite awhile to come to its full fruition. This is the first time God has visibly “had my back” His usual MO for me is in the stealth mode working behind the scenes.
As gravity of the experience begins to grow in my spirit its implications go far beyond just watching over me while I was doing something that was foolish for me to be doing in the first place. However, it further solidifies and deepens my belief not only in the providence of God but also extent to which He will go to ensure the plans he has for our lives will not be cut short either through our own foolishness or through circumstances beyond our control. I believe one of the reasons for my “now” belief in the truthfulness of our Angelic encounter (I say our encounter because Patti, Bonnie, Jon, and I because we all saw them and exchanged glances with them and gave them our thanks) is my ability to see the long term and lasting impact it will have on my faith journey. Perhaps it will impact the other three as it has mine.
Before I bring this part of my story to an end I need to say something further about my own personal belief in Angels. While my belief in “God’s Angels” just went from “I’m pretty sure” they exist to “now I know they exist”. At the same time I also believe in the existence of “God inspired” Angels, we refer to them as “Good Samaritans” people that seem to come out of nowhere help us out then all of a sudden go on their merry way. I remember one particular time in the summer of 1958 we were headed for Yellowstone Park. At one point the ball joint driver side of my dad’s car broke and sent us careening into the oncoming lane. Luckily no cars were coming. After coming to a stop my dad retrieved the front wheel a few minutes later a Good Samaritan stopped and helped my dad “jury rig” the front wheel good enough to hobble into the next town where dad fixed it. There were two miracles that day, no oncoming cars and the arrival and help of a “God inspired Angel”. Wait a minute now that I stop to think about it, maybe that Good Samaritan wasn’t human after all. Now that’s something to think about!
Even though I will be bringing this portion of my Angel story to an end there will no doubt be more to come because even though it seems as God touches us with a miracle then seemingly disappears until the next time whenever and wherever He touches our lives in one of His many different ways those touches will always ripple into and mold our lives far into the future.
Father God, I don’t know the names of those two Angels who saw to my safety but I will always remember them. And I look forward to the day when I will get a chance to meet them either in this life when the need for them arises once more. I would say thank you but words at this point seem pointless and shallow. I love you Father.
P.S. God, I just have to say this, it sure would great to sit down with those two and have a nice conversation! But, I can wait if I need to. AMEN (again)!