Summary: A narration of the work of angels in Scripture, entertainment media, and popular belief.


Allan Gurganus told the story of an old woman, a widow whose sons now live far away She was standing at the sink early one morning dressed in a tatty robe, doing the dishes and gazinig out the window looking everywhere and nowhere. Out of the corner of her eye she saw something fall to the ground in her backyard. There out near the picnic table lay something white, with wings, shivering as though it were cold, but it wasn’t a cold day.

“No way” she said. But when she looked again, there it was, plain as day, laying on its side resting on its own wings. It looked hurt.

Though her arthritis slowed her a bit, she hurried outside to investigate. She stooped a young unconscious angel. She touched the white forehead and received a mild electric shock. Then noticed her arthritic finger joints stop aching.

A practical person, she quickly cured her other hand. The angel grunted but sounded pleased. Poor thing,” she said, and carefully pulled his heavy curly head into her lap. The head hummed like a phone knocked off its cradle.

As her courage grew, she touched his skin. She also notices that with every touch thirty-year-old pains left her. Emboldened, she whispered to him her private woes: the Medicare cuts, the sons too busy to come by, the daughters-in-law not bad, but not so great either. Those emotional hurts seemed to go away just by the telling. And with every pain healed, with every heartache canceled, the angel seemed rejuvenated too. “Her griefs seem to fatten him like vitamins,” Gurganus wrote.

Regaining consciousness, the angel whispered to her, “We’re just another army. We all look alike—we didn’t before. It’s not what you expect. We miss the other. Don’t count so much on the next. Notice things here.”

We’re just another army?” Oh,” she said, like she understood. She didn’t.

Then, struggling to his feet and stretching his wings, with one solemn grunt, the angel heaved himself upward, just missing the phone lines.

“Go, go,” the old woman, grinning, pointed the way. He signaled back at her. At first the angel was a glinting man-shaped kite. Then as it receded, it was

an oblong of aluminum in the sun, a new moon shrunk to the size of a decent sized star, a final fleck of light, and then only a memory.

What should she do? Who should she tell? Who’ll believe her? She can’t tell her neighbor, Lydia. She would phone her missing sons, “Come right home. Your Mom is inventing company!”

She hears the neighbor’s collie barking in the distance. (It saw!) Maybe other angels have dropped into other backyards, she wonders. Behind fences, did neighbors help earlier ones? Folks keep so much of the best stuff quiet, don’t they?

Regaining her aplomb, she bounced back inside to finish her dishes. Slowly, she noticed, her joints started to ache again. The age spots that had totally vanished only moments before start to darken again. Everything is as it was before. Well, not everything.

Standing there at the sink, she seemed to be expecting something. Look at her, crazy old woman, staring out at the backyard, nowhere, everywhere. She plunged her aching hands into the warm, soapy water and whispered, “I’m right here, ready; ready for more.”

An old woman, who seems to be washing dishes, but she’s not. She’s’ guarding the world. Only, nobody knows.

Seen any angels lately? We have seen a lot about angels lately on television specials as well as entertainment segments. There was the feature article in USA Today about guardian angels. The story was about the current practice, popular among many, of wearing little guardian angel pins on their lapels. Apparently many still believe that there’s more to life than meets the eye.

Time magazine devoted the cover of a recent issue to angels. Inside, the feature article, “Angels among Us,” trumpeted (sorry about that) the statistic that 69 percent of Americans polled said they believed in angels.

In a recent issue of Ladies Home Journal there was another article about guardian angels, stories about people who, they believed, were miraculously delivered from all kinds of difficulties, people who sincerely believe it was angels who made the difference.

In 1990 there were only five books in print on the subject of angels, according to Gannett News Service. Today there are over two hundred, many of which have become bestsellers!

Unless you’re hiding under a rock, you’ll hardly make it through the Christmas season without seeing yet again the marvelous, if not altogether competent, angel, Clarence, in Frank Capra’s classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

Frederick Buechner says of angels,

"Sleight-of-hand magic is based on the demonstrable fact that as a rule people see only what they expect to see. Angels are powerful spirits whom God sends into the world to wish us well. Since we don’t expect to see them, we don’t. An angel spreads his glittering wings over us, and we say things like “It was one of those days that made you feed good just to be alive” or “1 had a hunch everything was going to turn out all right” or “I don’t know where I ever found the courage.” (2)

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