So, it being Advent and all, I just finished reading the story about the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and telling her about Jesus. At the risk of overstepping, I’d like to suggest that you consider having a conversation with some of your angels.
Now, granted, I don’t get how the whole “angel” thing works in the first place. I really don’t understand:
a) What they are (Are they the spirits of those who died as popular culture suggests? Some kinda special heaven-ish creatures as the bible suggests?);
b) Why you need them (If we go with the premise that you are all-powerful, what do you need them for, exactly?);
c) Or what it is, exactly, that they do (Warriors? Choirs? Guardians? Messengers?)
When I’m around folks who talk about angels a lot, I get a little nervous. This is not an idea that’s been a part of what I believe. I mean really believe. I tolerate these conversations in a way that verges on the edge of being patronizing (OK, sometimes more than “verges”). I, generally, think its sweet but, I don’t need (nor want) cute angels; a pastel tinted faith; or a collectible-based outward sign of an inward grace. God bless those that do. Amen. I like grit. Its where I find traction.
Still, I have no idea what to do with the people who give an account of what they are sure is a clear encounter with one of those grittier angels. These stories seem to rise up out of difficult, life-threatening moments. These are the stories of a person who appeared, helped and then could not be found to thank. These are the stories of the angel as a helpful trickster. These are the stories I more than tolerate; I respect them. I have no question that this was a holy moment for the teller of these stories and hearing these stories brings me in to some sort of holy zone, too. These holy, rough edged, not-ever-cute angel stories told in quiet voices touch me. I like these kind of working-class angels dressed in unkempt uniforms who speak with voices salted by a full life; strong beyond strong; gentle beyond gentle; loving beyond loving; and present at the exactly right moment.
These are the angels I wish would appear to every child facing starvation; to every abused woman; to every drug addict on every corner; to every person contemplating suicide; to every person lost in any kind of wilderness; to every refugee trying to make a new start; to everyone who has to run away from anything; to… The inconsistency of angels makes it hard to believe in them.
(Granted, “inconsistency” is at the heart of one of our most frequent fights, too. I get upset with what I see as yours. You get upset with what you know are mine.)
So, God, I don’t get angels even though I believe in the people who tell stories of them. I am – at best – an angel agnostic even though I think they are, basically, a good idea in need of improvement. To that end, back to that suggestion I started off this prayer with. Really, one suggestion in particular…
If they exist, you might want to talk to your angels about their tendency to start off with the phrase, “Do not be afraid.” Although I appreciate the gesture, any statement that starts of with phrases like this or “OK, I don’t want you to worry…” or “I have some news that isn’t as bad it seems…” etc. is really not all that helpful and tends to create the opposite effect that is intended.
Just tell the angels not to worry too much about our being afraid. Its what we do. At those moments we are, its more important for us to know we’re not alone. Especially when we can’t be there for each other (and if you could help us with this, too, that would be great) the presence of an angel would be awesome; just to be there. That’s the kind of angel I think we need the most.
Thanks for listening.