Do you think a lot about angels?
I have to admit that I don't; not really. Perhaps because I don't really understand the taxonomy and natural history, if you will, of angels; how they fit into the divine scheme of things. I remember, growing up, the ubiquitous Teutonic-kitschy picture of the guardian angel guarding the little children on the rickety bridge, beloved of Lutheran Sunday-school rooms everywhere. I cherish the old family treetop angel that I now hang from my own Christmas tree. I narrowly escaped grave injury more than once in my childhood, in a variety of misadventures -- most famously, my climbing up our farm elevator and falling down into our corncrib back when I was about three -- happy endings that my family attributed to my guardian angels watching over me.
But when I try to understand, or even believe in, an angelic presence in this world, I can't wrap my head around the concept. Why is it that my guardian angel eased me into a soft landing on a pile of corncobs instead of letting me fall to my death on a cement corncrib floor, but other guardian angels don't similarly save other little children from dangerous situations? If every blade of grass has its angel standing next to it telling it, "Grow! Grow" -- what about the grss that withers and dies? And the whole traditional understanding of the fall of Satan -- Satan's vanity and desire for equality of God -- how does that square with the idea of angels as beings with superior intelligence but without human emotion?
So I tend to be an angel agnostic. Whether they're real entities or wish-dreams or metaphors...I just don't know. But the other evening, this week when much of Christendom celebrated the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, as I rode in a car in the rain on a busy freeway at night, I found myself thinking about my guardian angel, if there is one, and about Fellow Traveler's guardian angel, if there is one, and offering up -- not exactly a prayer, but a thought that, if they are with us, we're glad they are.
(Artwork: "The Mighty Angel," Sulamith Wulfing)