There is an old story that I remember went something like this: Two angels were walking upon the earth in the garb of human beings, one was an elder angel and the other a young angel who was traveling and learning from the elder.
They had walked a long way and were tired as evening was approaching. They came to a large, wealthy looking, well-manicured home with several large outbuildings. They knocked on the door and explained they were travelers who were hungry and tired and asked if they could please have lodging and food for the night. The grumpy man who answered the door said that he had no room for them and nothing to spare, but that they could spend the night in his barn and eat the slop with the pigs. So, they bedded down in the barn as best they could on some unsoiled hay and ate the filth in the pig trough. It was a thoroughly miserable night. They noticed as they lay down to sleep that there was a small hole in the wall behind them in one corner of the stable.
In the morning, when the younger angel awoke, he discovered that the elder one had patched the hole in the wall. They set out on the road again, still hungry, and now sore. The younger angel said, “I do not understand – he obviously could have fed us decent food and let us stay in comfort, but he was so miserly he did not, and yet you fixed his wall for him! Why…??”
The elder angel answered, “Things are not always as they seem!”, and then fell silent.
That night, after another long day’s journey, they came upon a poor, dilapidated farm house and noticed one spindly cow in the small field nearby. The farmer and his wife both greeted them at the door. Hearing their tale, the elderly couple who lived there welcomed them into their home, saying, “We do not have much, but you may sleep in our bed tonight, and we will sleep on the floor. And you can share dinner with us, such as it is – a loaf of bread, some cheese, and milk from our cow. We barely get by selling her milk in the village. I am sorry we cannot offer you more.” The two angels expressed their gratitude for the couple’s kindness and slept well that night after dinner.
They awoke in the morning to the sound of the woman crying. They went to the kitchen to find the man comforting his sobbing wife at the table. The younger angel asked them what had happened. The man answered sadly, “In the middle of the night our cow died.” The elder angel said a brief prayer and some words of comfort before the two angels took their leave and were on the road again.
The younger angel said: “I do not understand. This couple had so little and yet were so generous to us, and you did nothing to help them! You even allowed their cow to die! Why?” The elder angers answered, “Things are not always as they seem”, and continued walking.
After several hours the young one spoke up again, distraught. “No, this is not right! It should not be this way. The grumpy wealthy man offers us nothing, and you fix the hole in his wall. The kindly couple opened their hearts and home to us, and you did nothing to help them at all! Why? I need to understand. And please do not just say that things are not always as they seem!”
The elder angel stopped walking and looked at his young companion. With a sigh he explained, “While you slept in the straw in the barn, I explored what was behind the hole in the wall. It was a vast collection of gold and money and jewels – where the wealthy man hid his treasures. So I did not fix the wall, as it appeared to you; I sealed it so he can never access it again.
“And in the case of the elderly couple, I awoke to find the Angel of Death in the house in the middle of the night and asked him why he was here. He pointed to the farmer’s wife as she lay sleeping, and told me he had come for her. I stopped him and said, ‘Take the cow instead.’ ”
The younger angel said, “So he still has his wife.” The old angel smiled, “You see, things are not always as they seem. He will get another cow.”
In my life, in yours, things are not always as they seem. What looks one way often turns out another, and there are hidden blessings going on all around us. All we need are the eyes to see…and it is the light of love within our hearts that makes that vision possible.
Written by Rev Steven McAffee
With questions and for counselling contact Rev Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org