Angel On The Highway

Sara Etgen-Baker

© Copyright 2024 by Sara Etgen-Baker

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash
Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

If you’re not sure what direction to follow, call upon your angels and ask them to hold your hand and guide you with their loving presences.” Tracey Smith

I’m a native Texan and as such am not experienced in or comfortable with driving in snowy, icy road conditions. So I was reluctant, even afraid, that snowy February morning to embark on my 25-mile commute. I dressed for work anyway, listening to weather reports and watching the radar, hoping to receive a text message from my school district telling me that schools would be closed for the day due to inclement weather and deteriorating road conditions. But the text message never came. Being a dutiful teacher, I warmed up my car melting the fresh layer of ice on the windshield then left for campus slowly inching my car along city streets keeping my eyes peeled for patches of black ice.

I approached the freeway entrance ramp relieved that road crews had treated it with sand, salt, and ice-breaking chemicals making it less hazardous. I tensed my shoulders and leaned forward like a race-car driver, gripping the steering wheel so hard that my knuckles turned white. I made my way onto the freeway, slowly accelerating and decelerating to maintain traction passing several abandoned vehicles along the side of the road with their flashers blinking. I drove cautiously staying well within the lanes the snow plows had cleared keeping a safe distance between me and the cars in front of me. Despite my vigilance, I swerved a couple of times and all but spun out once or twice terrified that I’d collide with another vehicle or, even worse, the concrete median. I gazed out the windshield and looked up. Ominous whitish-gray winter storm clouds loomed overhead.

In the distance I could barely make out the treacherous, unavoidable High-Five—a 12-story high, massive five-level freeway interchange that I’d soon have to navigate to reach my destination. I forged ahead looking for my familiar exit ramp only to discover that it had been closed forcing me to take the next higher-level ramp. My heart raced as my fear of heights kicked in. Relax I told myself. You’ll be fine. But in a camera-flash the whitish-gray clouds burst open releasing their white fury—bold, thick, and blinding.

My heart raced, beating even faster keeping time with the windshield wiper’s frantic schwump, schwump, schwump, schwump sound. Within minutes, the blowing snow blended together with the existing snow cover. Visibility was instantly reduced to next to zero. Directional signs quickly vanished. The road itself disappeared as did all the cars around me. With the whitish-gray clouds overhead my sense of spatial boundaries quickly became warped. I had no sense of direction, no idea how high I was, or where my exit ramp was. I knew in that instant I was experiencing what’s called a whiteout.

Suddenly, I hit a large patch of black ice and spun out of control heading straight for the median and the metal guardrail. I gripped the steering wheel harder staring at my trembling hands unsure as to what to do because I simply didn’t have the skills or experience to maneuver myself out of the slide. A sense of utter helplessness and fear enveloped me as I realized I was about to drive off the edge of the High-Five and plummet to my death.. My mind raced with the acute awareness that comes when facing imminent death. I’ll never again see my husband, feel his tender embrace, or share a sunset with him. How will he cope with life without me? What about my family, friends, and colleagues? I’ll never see them again or share a holiday or birthday with them. I’ll never again teach another class, assist another student, grade another paper, or attend a staff meeting. All my tomorrows will be gone. I spun even closer to the edge convinced that my death was inevitable and pondered: What will heaven be like? Oh God! I shouted, tears streaming down my face. Help me! I don’t want to die, not today.

The next thing I remember was my car moving on its own back to the left somehow being guided out of the spin. I looked at my hands. They were loose on the steering wheel having virtually done nothing to take me out of the death spin. Had I blacked out or had some supernatural force somehow moved me toward a safe exit? At that moment I felt like the hands of an angel were on my steering wheel directing my car safely onto the lower ramp and keeping it from nosediving off the bridge. Although I didn’t actually see an angel, I definitely felt its loving, protective presence guiding me to safety. Thirty minutes later I arrived at school, humbled, grateful, and transformed.

That experience gave me a new perspective on a lot of things, including angelic protection. The highway can be a dangerous, deadly place, with cars speeding and careening all over like big heavy missiles of metal, glass, and gasoline. People don’t pay close enough attention to where these rolling projectiles are headed, all made even worse by inclement weather, poor road conditions, and reduced visibility. It can be a harrowing thought to realize that any of us are at the mercy of fate out there on the road, racing along essentially alone in a thin shell of metal that will likely not do much good to protect us if danger comes calling.

But what if we’re not alone out there on that stretch of road? What if we’re not alone on the highway of life? What if there are benevolent, angelic forces watching over us, looking out for us, protecting, and guiding us safely to our destination much like the protective angel who lead me to safety that snowy winter morning? My freeway incident convinced me that angels, seen or unseen, are in fact patrolling the roads and highways just as surely as is the specter of death. They’re sent to us in times of need, distress, or danger like the one I faced on the freeway that wintry February morning.

In hindsight I can vividly recall other times in my life when I’ve unknowingly encountered an angel who—without saying a word—protected me from harmful conflict and the fray; who cushioned me from a physical, emotional, or spiritual fall; who inwardly strengthened and comforted me in times of sorrow and pain; who guided me away from potentially harmful choices; and who provided me with guidance and encouragement during difficult times in my life.

I take comfort in knowing there are angels behind the scenes looking out for me, angels watching and waiting to help me, angels guiding me, and angels snatching me from danger when I venture onto any of life’s highways.

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