Strangers . . . And Then Some
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2)
We entertained strangers all right. In fact, that night we ended up with more company than we bargained for. Or invited. But we were new Christians and inexperienced in the business of exercising godly wisdom and discerning spiritual baggage people sometimes carry with them. All we knew was that we were drawn to two men from the homeless shelter where we volunteered, and on impulse we brought them home to spend Christmas with us. Didn’t the Bible encourage us to open our home to strangers? We did just that; we brought them home.
Upon arrival, we set them up in our guest room, and while they settled in, I made a mad dash to the store to pick up a few gifts for them. I felt giddy with excitement as I wrapped each present and applied a bow for the finishing touch. How surprised they would be to find packages with their names on them nestled beneath our tree on Christmas morning! I couldn’t wait to witness their response.
The evening progressed well. At first, they seemed a bit overwhelmed by our generosity, but were congenial enough. Perhaps the plate of peanut-butter cookies shoved in front of their noses and my husband’s infectious gift of gab helped them to let down their guard. Whichever the case, they fell in step with the festivities and in no time seemed to enjoy themselves. We filled their bellies with my favorite holiday spread of ham and sweet potatoes, and for dessert, cherry pie alamode.
Only once during the evening did I experience a twinge of apprehension over our impulsive decision to bring strangers into our home. On the heels of my husband sharing his testimony of how the Lord saved him from a life of drug addiction and crime, the older man pulled a few skeletons from his own closet. He’d served time in prison for killing his father-in-law before he ended up on the streets. I forced a courteous smile in response and promptly offered him another cup of coffee while my husband veered the conversation a different direction. When our evening finally drew to an end, we all said our good nights and headed for bed. I laid my head on my pillow with a sigh of relief, knowing we had done our best to entertain strangers.
I awakened to the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck bristling, and tried to throw off an indefinable sense that my husband and I weren’t alone in our bedroom. Except for the faint glow of a night light in the bathroom across the hall and moonlight outlining the edges of our drawn window shades, the room was quite dark. I was wide awake and all of my senses were on high alert. My eyes felt wide as saucers as I raised my head slightly from the pillow and scanned the room. The dresser’s large mirror opposite our bed reflected no movement in the hallway. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary. My ears strained to identify any unusual sound that might have awakened me with such a start. Other than my husband’s throaty snore and the clock ticking beside my head, an eerie silence answered me. Somewhere in the neighborhood, a dog barked. My nose probed the air for traces of body odor and rank cigarette smell accompanying one of our guests. It came up empty. I asked the Lord to forgive us for our foolish decision to bring them home and pleaded with Him to rescue us.
I still couldn’t shake the sense that someone or something was in our room. In fact, I was certain of it. Could they be creeping alongside our bed on their way to my jewelry box on the dresser? I studied the shadows on the wall as a wonderland of nightmarish imagery played through my mind. Perhaps our guest never intended to rob us, but to murder us in our sleep. Had his father-in-law met his demise in the same way? I swallowed the lump in my throat and prayed again.
My troubled thoughts shot to our slumbering eight-year-old daughter at the end of the hall. So innocent! So vulnerable! What were we thinking bringing two total strangers into our home? What parents do such an irresponsible thing?
My muscles were board stiff with fright. My elbow refused to collaborate and jab my husband’s ribs to wake him. A scream was rising from the depths of my gut. Any second it was going to bust loose.
Before it reached my lips, a cluster of twinkling lights appeared from out of nowhere and cut it short. These tiny sparkles floated and fluttered through the room in some undisclosed flight pattern and then paused directly over our bed. This is no dream, I reasoned; I'd never been more awake. My terror turned to fascination as I watched them grow in size and increase in number. Before I knew it, our room was illuminated by a host of them. Surely, we were in the presence of God’s holy angels. And they were glorious. I was lost in the awe of witnessing such a phenomenon.
Within moments, the room went dark again. As quickly as the angels appeared, they were gone. The unwelcomed someone or something had vacated as well. My husband rolled over with his back to me. His breathing was steady and deep. Down the hall, my daughter coughed and the dog barked again in the distance. The alarm clock beside the bed glowed a big 3:00. All was as it should be. Tranquility filled my heart as I stared up at the ceiling and rehearsed the night’s events in my mind.
I eventually drifted off to a peaceful sleep, comforted by the fact that no matter what danger lurked in our room that night, the arrival of angels had shifted the atmosphere. We were safe. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways . . . Psalm 91:11). I also knew that in our inexperienced attempt to entertain strangers, we were entertaining angels without knowing it.