Sunday, March 18, 2007

Angel with a Broken Wing

A few posts ago, Peach wrote a comment in which she asked what I have learned from my current situation. I have thought about that question quite a bit during my isolation and have decided that my answer is that I have not learned much that is new, but have re-learned some very old lessons. This is one of them:

As one comes up the driveway to my mother's house, you are greeted by an angel standing before a lamppost.

If you look closely at the angel, you will notice that its left wing is broken.

The term angel is derived from the Greek word angelos and is the equivalent of the Hebrew word mal'akh, meaning “messenger.” Angels have their significance primarily in what they do rather than in what they are. Angels are God's messengers.

When I speak of angels, I'm not speaking of traditional angelology that came into Judaism from Zoroastrianism and into Christianity and Islam from Judaism. I have no interest in the seven ranks of celestial beings or how many angels can sit upon a pin's head. Angels have their significance primarily in what they do rather than in what they are. Angels are God's messengers.

I have met many angels in my life. We all have, although we may seldom consider the messenger an angel or the message as one from God. We may not even recognize the message as "good news" because it is often one that we do not want to hear. I know many stories from numerous traditions that share the truth that usually divine messages "comfort the oppressed and oppress the comfortable." That, I believe, is a universal truth.

I also believe that anyone can be an angel comforting the oppressed and oppressing comfortable. I have been one and I suspect that you, too, have delivered such messages, even if you do not believe in God or consider yourself to be religious. Doing so is a part of life, of the cosmic connection that makes all life-all sentient beings-one.

Perhaps the most powerful angels are those who have been wounded by the "slings and arrows" of life. Although he did not speak specifically of angels, Henri Nouwen discussed this reality in his book The Wounded Healer. It is through our own woundedness that we so often bring comfort to the oppressed and oppress the comfortable.

I believe that only wounded angels can evince true compassion. When the President of the United States used the word compassion at the beginning of his administration, I questioned his sincerity. How can the ultra-rich understand the the pain and suffering of the poor, the hungry, the victims of prejudice and hatred? Perhaps the words that Cathy wrote as a comment to my yesterday's post are true:

THE USA what a great country. Looking down its nose at socialist welfare policies in European countries whilst its citizens struggle to survive.
There is a story that I heard many years ago about a young seminary graduate who was a great preacher. An old clergyman attended a service in which the young man preached. Later he was asked his opinion of the sermon. He responded, "Yes, he is good, but he isn't great. Before he can become great he must suffer."

Several years later he listened to another sermon by the young minister. He was so impressed by the power and compassion of the preacher that he asked him what had changed in his life over the past years. The preacher responded, "My only son died of leukemia." He had become a messenger from God through his own sorrow and woundedness.

That is part of the meaning I am discerning in my present struggles. I receive messages of compassion from angels such as you and perhaps I am more able to comfort the oppressed and oppress the comfortable through my own woundedness.

While researching this post I encountered the following with which I shall end:

Angels with broken wings are still angels. They rest their tattered bodies on olive branches and fig leaves, staring at the sun. Until one day, the sun becomes hidden by the clouds... Then, while all the people within the realm of the reality that we know find solace in the warmth of their homes, protected from the cold, the angel remains outside whipped and beaten by the storm. Everyone feels sorry for her until the rain stops, and they realize her beautiful wet wings glisten even more in the sunlight after they have survived the abuses of nature... Their empathy turns to jealousy, and the wrath of their fiery eyes is too much for our poor wet angel to withstand... Too bad she's beautiful... (Alice Sheets, 2002)


  1. This is beautiful, Nick. I agree with you that life itself bestows on each of us a connectedness of which we do not necessarily have to be aware in order to facilitate. Awarness and acceptance of it generally makes the process more enjoyable and effective, I believe.

  2. What you write is so true!

  3. Well...I don't know if only a wounded healer can demonstrate compassion. But I do know that I've been able to hold space for a lot more of life's complex situations, the longer I live, and the more personal tragedies I've experienced.

    Lots of love to you, Nick,

  4. Catching up on your posts, Saint Nick -

    They're amazing, considering your situation. The compassion (that you never lacked) will increase because of these hardships...

    Hugs & prayers,

  5. Beautifully written Nick. You are truly an amazing man.

  6. I agree with Laurie: you are amazing. I came here looking for jokes and found wisdom and beauty.

  7. Angels are the non-religious sense, at least to me.


  8. Nick, what a beautiful post. This post only proves further to me, that we are not our material things but so much more. Perhaps this whole reality is just an illusion and the challenges we have drive us further to our source of creation. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Yeah, we find angels all around, but we don't recognise them, don't we?
    I like that idea, nick--suffering can make you an angel, give you true depth. But suffering alone doesn't guarantee that. One needs to allow the lessons of suffering to sink in.

    Hope you don't suffer much again. Good luck and thanks for these wonderful posts :-)

  10. "Angel with a broken wing" is a wonderful analogy. If you don't mind, I'll borrow it for my next book (giving you credit, of course).

  11. Your words ring so true. I hope your wings don't take much more of a beating at this point.

  12. ex-louisville guy in TucsonMonday, March 19, 2007 8:58:00 PM


    In reading your blogs and the challenge of the delays in your request for UCC pension, SSI possibilities, etc., considering your "emergency" situation with housing, etc., have you explored if there is a possibility that you may be eligible for an "emergency grant" from the Christmas Fund via the Pension Board (or whomever administers it)?

    Continuing to think of you and pray that all will soon be more positive.

  13. You're an amazing man, Nick. Even though you've caught a rotten ball that life's thrown at you, you can still "stand outside yourself" and philosophise about. No self pity there.

    I just hope you can get back to Alex soon and start getting your life back to normal.

    Thinking of you,

    Hugs xoxo

  14. Beautiful post Nick. I'm a firm believer that the angels are GOD's messengers. Some people get caught up in praying to the angels, but in fact, in my beliefs, we should be praying to God, and then God let's His angels work for you.

    With enough faith in what God has in store for us all, you automatically release these angels to work for you. They say that when you do this in faith, you release 72,000 angels to work for you - to help you.

    Just my opinion! Loved this post!

  15. I love the way you think and write!

  16. That is one of the most truly beautiful posts I've read in a long time. I literally have wet eyes now.

    Thank you for that.

  17. Good theology, Rev. Saint. You've been a angel bringing messages to many. I hope God is sending you some angels in your time of need.

  18. There's an awful lot of angels with broken wings in the blogsphere.A beautiful post.