An Angelic Embrace Strengthens Her Faith

On the verge of committing to someone for life, she didn’t trust anyone. Not even God

- Posted on Mar 1, 2013

An artist's rendering of Pauling being embraced by an angel

Night covered the Pennsylvania valley around my house, dark and velvet soft. It was just before dawn, but I couldn’t sleep. I was too anxious. In a few weeks I would be married. My fiancé and I were deeply in love, but was that enough?

In the Mennonite culture, marriage is forever. There were no second chances. My own parents had raised 11 children, and weathered illness, tight finances and even a barn fire together. Could I trust my soon-to-be husband to be supportive during challenging times? I wasn’t sure.

We were very young: I was 20, Kenneth was 19. We had no money at all. We were starting out with nothing but the clothes on our backs. “You’re not ready,” my parents had warned. What if they were right?

I breathed in the early spring air and tried to concentrate on all the good things about Kenneth. His joy, his optimism, his excitement at the prospect of our life together. In order to marry Kenneth with my whole heart, I had to trust him completely. Trouble was, I didn’t trust anyone completely. Not even God.

At the church I grew up in God wore a stern face and made strict rules. As a teenager I’d rebelled, asserting my independence and exploring life outside my Mennonite heritage.

Now I’d returned to the church, and returned to God. But I still thought of him as that stern face in the Bible storybooks of my childhood. I called him my father, but I couldn’t imagine him thinking of me as his daughter, listening to my prayers or caring about my problems.

I’d turned away from him once. How could he trust me not to do it again? And if God couldn’t trust me, how could he support me? How could I trust myself to be making the right decision? If my parents had doubts about my marriage, I couldn’t imagine God giving me his blessing.

I leaned against the fence post and looked out at the surrounding farms. Not a single light shone in any window in the valley. No other living creature was in sight. I wrapped my arms tightly around myself.

With no one else to turn to, I found myself praying as I never had before. No formal church rituals or fancy language. Please, God... I couldn’t even put my plea into words. I just gave everything—my fears, my doubts, my hopes—up to God.

I felt a touch on my shoulder. A touch as real as if someone had walked right up beside me. A touch so real I turned around and looked up.

There was no one with me. But I felt an arm from above wrap around my shoulders in a gentle hug, soft as an angel’s wings. My heart filled with peace and love greater than I had ever known.

God listens, I thought. He cares. My father loves me. I knew it with the all-trusting faith of a child.

Eventually the hug faded and I went inside. But for the rest of the day, whenever I remembered the sensation around my shoulders, the inner peace returned anew. I tried to act normal, but I would never be the same. I believed wholeheartedly that I had a true blessing on my marriage. I trusted my future, my God and myself.

Almost 25 years later, the young man I married has turned out to be more faithful and loving than I ever could have dreamed. We have weathered many storms and shared much happiness, all of it together, safe in God’s embrace.

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