The Angels in Texas

I awoke to the news of an eight-month old girl found clinging to her drowned momma in Texas.  Rescuers were able to save the baby just moments before she and her momma would have been carried under a railroad trestle where the water would have been too high for emergency responders to save her.

There’s this line in my latest novel – “If there is any place that needs more angels, it’s earth, not heaven.”

I’ve thought of that line over and over as I’ve watched the news out of Texas this past week and as the stories from Katrina have flooded my own memory.  My Social Media accounts have been inundated with friends in Texas postings about the floodwaters, about their own safety checks, about the rescues they’ve been involved with, about the tragedies they have witnessed, about the losses they are incurring on a daily basis.

The angels of this week don’t have wings, they have boats. They have air mattresses. They have a warm blanket. They have bottled water. They have a dry spot for those in need to rest their worn out bodies and souls. They have open arms for the grieving. They have open doors for the displaced and disoriented. They have candles and prayers for the mothers and fathers, daughters and sons lost, for those whose bodies have not yet been recovered.

The angels this week aren’t flying over Texas, they are sloshing through chest-high waters, past all that floating debris, rescuing the woman with Alzheimer’s, the man with diabetes, the child in need of oxygen. The angels in Texas are sopping wet and slap worn out, unable to sleep as long as there are people atop the roofs of trucks, of houses, of businesses, praying for an angel of mercy to rescue them.

The angels in Texas don’t have time to weep. They are too busy responding to 911 calls.

And not all the angels are even from Texas. Many came from nearby states, towing their fishing boats, their trucks packed with dry food goods and old wool blankets pulled from the top shelf of their linen closets where they’ve sat unused for a decade. These angels were moved to action not by some TV evangelist but by the sight of Texas neighbors huddled together on apartment rooftops, shivering from fear of rising waters and whether they would meet the fate of that young baby’s momma.

The angels in Texas aren’t a celestial sort.

The angels of Texas put on work boots and rain-gear and head out the door, unsure of if and when they will return to the comforts of their own dry beds.

The angels of Texas are the most human and humane of people.

The angels of Texas come in all shapes, all sizes, all ages, all genders. Some pray. Some curse. Some do both. But the one thing they all have in common is a heart shattered for the drowned and those in peril of drowning.

It’s easy to distinguish between the angels of earth and the angels in heaven – the angels of earth don’t sit around praying for somebody else to intervene, they climb in their boats and head out in search of people they can rescue themselves.

This week the angels of earth are in Texas pulling babies from swollen culverts and dead mommas from rushing waters.

I thank God daily for the angels of earth.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of CHRISTIAN BEND: A novel, Mercer University Press.



Jane kirkpatrick

about 4 years ago

You are a Oregon angel bringing these word pictures to book end the pictures we see on the news. Thank you



about 4 years ago

Thank you, friend. I know you share the same shattered heart.



about 4 years ago

Echoes the words of John Dominic Crossan, I believe: "Things are just fine in heaven. Earth is where all the problems are." Yes, numerous angels out in boats, shelter workers going without sleep, National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and fire fighters putting the needs of others ahead of their own families. May God bless them all. There are also other angels, too often ignored or disparaged in our polarized society. They never get credit for the lives they have saved, the thousands more they have been attempting to save for years. One such angel is Christian atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe, a Canadian transplanted to Lubbock, Texas. For years she has been attempting the modern role of Jeremiah in lifting up climate change and global warming, too often to deaf ears among the most fervent Christians. Here's something to consider if it ever comes up in discussion when you are out on book tour. Let's say that Hurricane Harvey is entirely due to natural variability, it's a once in 100,000 year occurrence. Let's say that the next storms to hit the Gulf Coast might only produce 20-30 inches of rain instead of 40-50 according to natural variability. Should we not do all in our power to prevent those 20-30 inches from rising to 40-50 or 50-60 inches of rain in the future? All coastal cities globally should be paying attention, but population centers inland as well. We really don't want to be doing things that could make human caused impacts worse in the future. But we have been doing so for several centuries now. Last thing, there is no such thing as a choice between "jobs or the environment". There are no jobs apart from the environment. Harvey did not sit off the coast for days making up its mind whether to come ashore or not, ultimately deciding not to make landfall in order to spare jobs. Rising sea levels will not spare jobs or dwellings in low-lying areas, nor will they respect political borders or national hostilities. Same for droughts. As Katharine Hayhoe rightly asks, "What kind of world do we want our children to have? " America and mud-caked Houston have a golden opportunity right now: to not rebuild as it was before but to rebuild for the world of very different climate, very different transportation and very different work and housing. Every city should pay attention. Every politician and every pastor should pay attention. Are we willing to listen to the angels asking us to go in a new direction? What names have we called them in the past?


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