Always a father
It was a brisk October morning in 1991, when Sharon Stultz set out for Pittsburgh to pick up her second car, which had broken down at a friend’s house there, and tow it back to her home in Alexandria, VA. She had never towed anything before and was nervous, but she put the rented hitch on the back of a borrowed pickup truck and drove toward the interstate.
“Just before merging, I bowed my head and said, ‘Dear Lord, please take me and bring me back, and keep me in the hollow of your hand,’” Sharon said. While she prayed, she thought of her father, a huge burly man who had always been her guardian—and her best friend. She still missed him, though he had died almost 10 years ago. If Dad were her, Sharon knew, he would get the car for her, or at least go along to help. She sighed. Hopefully, her father was watching from heaven and would send some added protection her way.
The trip to Pittsburgh proved uneventful, so after she hitched the car, Sharon decided to return home that same night. But by the time she reached Breezewood, PA, it was 10:00 p.m., and she realized she had made a mistake.
“Pulling the car slowed me down, and I was starting to feel the effects of the driving and the tension,” she said. It was time to find a motel.
“I stopped at several motels, but no one had a vacancy,” she said. By now, she was almost in a panic. She couldn’t imagine sleeping in the truck on the side of a road. But how could she drive safely?
Slowly she pulled into traffic again. “Lord, you’ve been holding me in your hand and I’m grateful,” she murmured. “But I need some extra help right now.”
An empty stretch of road loomed ahead. Sharon continued to pray, and she passed Hagertson, MD, without incident. But as she approached Frederick, she felt the truck veer. She had almost driven off the highway! She had to stop now, before she crashed. No, she couldn’t—where would she sleep? Just 50 or 60 miles more, but her eyes were so heavy, so heavy. She was nodding and she wasn’t going to make it.
Then, Sharon felt a cool breeze brush her cheeks, and a pair of large hands come gently down over hers on the steering wheel. It was as if someone else were taking over for her, someone safe, someone she knew. Her eyes closed completely, and she slipped into blessed rest.
Sharon awakened the next day at 11:00 a.m., fully dressed and lying in her own bed. Astonished, she leaped up and looked out at the driveway. Her other car was there, the one she had parked at her friend’s house when she borrowed his pickup.
“Sure, the truck and your towed car are here,” the friend said when Sharon phoned. “You left them here and picked up your other car early this morning, didn’t you?” She didn’t know. She didn’t remember anything. How could she have driven 50 miles, exchanged one car for another, and reached home safely without being aware of it?
But wait. A faint memory lingered, of peace, of being cared for, father’s hands. Tears sprain to Sharon’s eyes. It couldn’t be. But hadn’t she asked God to send her some added protection? And what more perfect choice could he make?
A few days later, Sharon met a friend in the supermarket. “Hey, I saw you towing a car on 495 late the other night,” he said. Highway 495 was the beltway around Washington, DC, her last lap home. But she had been asleep by then. “I was wondering,” the friend went on, “who was the big guy driving your truck?”
“The big guy?” Sharon asked. “Well,” he paused. “I couldn’t tell for sure, but it looked like a guy. And yet I could see you, too, in the same seat. There was a lot of light around you, like a glow.” He shrugged. “Guess it sounds pretty strange.”
Not strange, Sharon thought. The pieces all fit. “I will always be grateful to God for the privilege of being able to sense my father’s presence, of knowing that Dad is still watching out for me from heaven,” she said.
And just in case he harbored any doubt, a recent occurrence helped dispel it. A man who lives across the street from Sharon walks to the bus stop about the same time each morning as she does. “Our street is very dark then, and I’m always a little nervous until I get to the stop,” she said.
Although the neighbor had never spoken to Sharon, one morning he approached her. “I’d give a lot to know who that man is, the one who walks behind you,” he said.
“Man? What man?” Sharon asked.
“He’s really big, hard to miss. And he’s there every day, just following you. But when you get to the bus stop, he’s nowhere in sight.”
Oh, yes, he is, Sharon thought. I can see him with my heart. God never abandons us. But sometimes he permits valleys in our lives so we may more readily look up—at him.