The Owl and the Angel

Last Updated: 5 May 2023By

I sat beside the road, exhausted. Sunlight gave way to twilight,
darkness arriving with stealthy silence. Before me, the lagoon’s
small waves swished against the rocky shoreline.
Hunger gnawed at my guts, guts which had rejected food
for the past two weeks whilst in a hospital suffering from a
spastic colon. As soon as I had begun to eat they discharged me
back onto the streets. My elbow ached where the drip had been
attached.

I stared at the water as the darkness enveloped me, trembling,
sick and tired. I could hear the whisper of the waves, “Tell me
what’s wrong,” “Tell me what’s wrong.”
And so, I poured out my soul and emptied my heart.
“Why?”
“What did I do?”
“Why is my life a wasteland, a desert?”
“A nightmare with no end, a darkness with no dawn?”
“Why have you forsaken me and left me with no hope?”
“Why is despair my daily bread?”
“Why was I born at all?”


And then the self-condemnation washed over me, mixed with
devilish judgements.
“God hates you!”
“He’s never loved you!”
“You are cursed!”
“He is going to throw you in Hell!”
And so it went on. It seemed like hours. Tears flowed like buckets
of rain, the agony of anguish draining the last drop of water from
my brain. I sat there, shaking and shaken. It felt like my soul
had fallen to pieces, a living Humpty Dumpty, who would never
be put back together again.
And then the torment passed, the tears dried up and the feverish
shaking stopped. I sighed.
“What am I going to do?” I whispered, “Should I go back to
the city?”
The thought filled me with dread.

And then, I caught a glimpse in the corner of my eye. I turned
my head to look. There on a fence post not ten feet away from
me sat an owl, staring unblinkingly at me.
I froze, gazing back. I could feel the blood in my veins as my
heart beat frantically. The owl just sat there, unmoved, holding
my gaze.

How long we stared at each other, I cannot recall. How long it
had been there I did not know. It was like time had frozen and
the seconds seemed like minutes, the minutes like hours.
Then with a great blink of its eye, it silently took off. I’m sure
I heard a whisper as it flew by, “Your answer will come in the
morning!”

A faint feeling of hope enveloped me, slowing my beating heart,
and calming my raging mind. I lay back, my head resting on
my bag of few possessions as a pillow. I stared up at the stars,
twinkling down at me.
I thought about the owl. Did it hear all my anguish, was it
witness to my despair?
More than that did God know my fears?
Did He see my torment?
Did He hear my cries for deliverance?
Would He rescue me in the morning?
I pulled my jacket over me, curled up on the grass and fell
asleep.

I awoke with the sunrise that Sunday morning. My guts felt
like a black hole with nothing to gobble up. I gathered whatever
strength was left and sat up, waiting for the dizziness to settle.
It took a while. For a moment I did not know where I was. Was
the night before just a dream? I looked around.
There was the water. There was the fence post.
The image of the owl staring at me and then taking off into
the night played over and over in my head.
The sky was a deep blue, decorated with scattered wisps of
high clouds. The burning sun was rising swiftly, a cool breeze
was gently blowing off the water.
Still, the question burned in my mind, competing with the
craving imagination of food my body so desperately needed.
“What was I going to do?”
It was morning, would the answer come?

Cape Town, the city I had left a mere two months ago, was four
hundred kilometres away. It had taken me five days to hitchhike
from there. The thought of travelling back filled me with dread.
Could I make it back in my current condition?
Would I end up dying on the side of the road?
These were the questions that troubled my mind.

First things first, I had to find something to eat. I forced myself
onto my feet, picked up my bag and walked in the direction of
town.

It took over an hour to stumble the kilometre or so into the outer
suburbs of the town.

Every step felt like walking through jelly. It felt like something
was trying to slow me down like something was trying to prevent
me from getting to wherever it was that I was going to. I had to
force myself to walk. I could hear myself saying
“Take a step, now take another, don’t stop, keep walking, take
a step…”

And then, heard the faint sound of distant singing.
I came to a T-junction and was faced with a choice. The town
was down one way and the singing the other.
I decided to check out the singing which sounded like a church
service. I could always turn back and go into town.
As I walked the singing got louder, the singing was in English.
And there at last was the building. I stood there on the other
side of the road.
On the wall was the name AGS Lighuis, an Afrikaans Church.

My heart sank. Would Afrikaners want some vagabond Englishman
in their service?
The church was on the second floor with stairs leading up one
way and then the other way to an open narrow door.
I stood there unable to decide what to do. I just stared at the
empty doorway. The first song ended and another began, also
in English.

And then, a young boy, about seven or so appeared in the
doorway, looking intently at me. He had blond hair and wearing
a white shirt. Our eyes met and held, a bit like the owl the night
before.

Then a feeling of shame came upon me and I began to turn away.
The boy raced down the first portion of the stairs, calling out,
“Come in, come in, kom binne!”
I stopped to look at him. He smiled, gesturing me to come
and repeating his invitation. I smiled back. Tears flooded my
eyes. I thought of the scripture “out of the mouth of babes and
sucklings.”

I took a deep breath and the first step towards the stairs.
The boy raced up the stairs, turned to call me onwards and
disappeared into the doorway.
I entered the hall, there were about thirty people in there. I
searched for a sight of the boy, but could not see him anywhere.
I sat down at the back. The singing finished and the rest of the
service started. It was all in Afrikaans. I did not understand a
thing!

At the end of the service, they invited anyone for prayer.
I made my way to the front and with a trembling voice told
the minister of my plight.
I was a drug addict, had been in ill hospital for ten days, and…
and began babbling.

He placed his arm around my shoulder and calling some elders
led me into a room at the back. A grizzled old farmer and his son
joined us in the back room.

The old farmer asked me, in broken English, how I came to the
church. I told him about the boy who had called me in. This
bit of information seemed to stir him. He asked me to describe
the boy. I told him about seven years old with blond hair and
wearing a white shirt.

He looked stunned and they all started talking very animatedly
in Afrikaans, frequently pointing at me. The farmer called his
wife into the room and the animated conservation continued,
the wife stared at me, her face a whiter shade of pale.

Eventually, the room fell silent, they were all looking at me. The
farmer then turned to me and said quietly in his best broken
English.
“There is no such boy in the church!”
I stared at him uncomprehendingly, I shook my head,
“But,” I gasped, “I saw the boy, he…he called me in… I”
The farmer smiled, his face lit up, and he was nodding
vigorously,
“Yes, we know, we believe you, but there is no such boy in this
church!

The silence in the room became deafening. Time seemed to
stand still, everyone frozen in their place. It felt like the presence
of God had invaded the place.
The realisation hit me like a few tons of bricks, my thoughts
racing at the speed of light; I saw a boy who called me in, they
believed I saw a boy, but that boy did not exist.
I thought about the night before. My anguish, my despair, my
cries for help, my questions.
I thought of the owl, the promise of an answer.
I thought of the walk into town, and how it had seemed that
something was trying to delay me.
If I had delayed for five minutes and missed hearing the
singing.
If I had not heard the singing, I would never have seen the
boy…

I lifted my eyes to look at the farmer and those in the room all
wearing wide smiles on their faces.
The farmer pointed to his wife and said in a quiet voice that she
had had a dream in the week, that an Englishman would come
to stay with them for a season.

The answer had come, in a way that only God could have
ordained. And thus another leg in my journey to my destination
of destiny began one that I so nearly missed.

I stayed with this blessed family of a farmer, wife, three sons
and a daughter for 7 months, working on the farm, a farm that
produced carrots almost a foot long, huge pumpkins, broccoli,
butternuts, cabbages, the likes I had never seen in my life.

to be continued…