I admit it. I am more than a skeptic. I am a naysayer. I do not believe in guardian angels. But I am clearly outnumbered. According to a 2011 CBS poll nearly 8 in 10 Americans believe in angels. I see signs of this everywhere I go – lapel pins, bumper stickers, note cards, candles, spoon rests, clocks; if it can be made in the shape of an angel, bear the likeness of an angel or a saying about angels then someone has manufactured it in lots of 500,000. An Amazon search of the word “Angel” returned 1,296,413 results. So I’ve decided I should at least entertain the possibility that all those believers know something I don’t.
Maybe they are right and we each have a guardian angel at our side, smoothing our way, saving us from physical and spiritual harm. If that’s the case they don’t seem to be doing a very good job in my life and the lives of those I know well. In fact they seem remarkably unhelpful. For example, it’s common knowledge that you can’t count on your guardian angel to save you from even the most terrible disaster let alone help you find your keys. Why not? What else do guardian angels have to occupy their time? What are they doing that they aren’t around to save me, guide me, and guard me?
Maybe guardian angels are simply unreliable. Say they’re late for work now and then, dilly-dallying in the heavenly gardens, getting a little extra sun – just five minutes. Disaster can strike without warning so those five minutes could be crucial. Or what if they’ve taken up reading and lost track of time, absorbed in the newest Stephen King novel or that famous vampire tale, and ignored the speeding dump truck careening down the road?
Perhaps they’re late because they’ve been gossiping or offering urgent advice to their friends. Who would angels gossip about? Us? The disciples? Each other? What might angels find to gossip about? A rescue went wrong? Someone reading questionable texts like 50 Shades of Grey or Darwin’s original journals? Can they only gossip in person or can they do it long distance? Is there a heavenly communication system that lets an angel select the right channel for a long distance chat with their pal Sarah, Guardian Angel class 3, currently on assignment in Uruguay? Do they have to make their calls at certain times of the day to comply with worship requirements of some kind, thus delaying their return to work?
Transportation delays could help explain angelic lapses. If there’s one guardian angel for every person on earth, I imagine there might be a traffic jam or two during rush hour (no matter how many angels fit on the head of a pin). How many shift changes do you suppose they have? Three, dividing the day to match most human schedules? Three rush hours a day could add up to some serious lapses in guardianship. Or do you suppose the angel on duty just waits, racking up bigger and better jewels for his crown?
And how do they decide which angel goes where? Is there a classified’s section in the Daily Divinity (a throw away that hits newsstands around sunrise) advertising for various guardian angel jobs? Are there perks that come with the more difficult positions? Upgraded robes, burnished feathers, sandals with Velcro instead of those time consuming laces that go all the way to the knee? Do they fit the angel to the person, matching disposition, skill set, and athletic demands? Do they attempt to balance qualities like patience, intelligence, emotional stability, only placing impulsive angels with unusually staid humans for example?
What if angels suffer from psychological maladies similar to ours? That could certainly lead to inconsistent and unreliable performance and affect guardian angel placement. Some angels might have AADHDD: Angelic Attention Deficit and Heavenly Desire Disorder (the following excerpted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Behavioral Disorders and Manifestations in Celestial Beings edition #12):
Life on the material plane is difficult for angels with AADHDD. They are unusually attuned to the vibrations of the heavenly plane and find it difficult to be away from the pearly gates for long periods of time. When placed as Guardian Angels, they become distracted by humanity’s Zoetic nature and may lose sight of their purpose when in close, constant contact with humans. The longing for heaven, already strong in these angels, becomes overwhelming under these circumstances and they flutter about unable to focus or intervene as they should. Angels with this challenge are better suited to work on the heavenly grounds where their environment allows them to focus more effectively. Behavioral therapy can be helpful in some instances.
All these explanations seem at least plausible. But I suspect the answer is not that simple. Why would God do such a thing? Why would God assign guardian angels and then tolerate poor on-the-job performance? If this were a human organization it wouldn’t seem so farfetched. But God? Maybe God has some system for identifying those moments when the touch of a guardian angel is truly necessary. Perhaps that is the only time an angel may act, interfering in the least intrusive fashion possible. This would accomplish the task but leave angels open to accusations of faithlessness and poor reliability.
Whatever the explanation, it seems clear that unreliable intervention by guardian angels is a fact of life. In case an icon, painting, t-shirt, key chain or night light will improve my chances of angelic intervention I’ve settled on a night light. I assume angels can see in the dark but what if mine has poor night vision? Walmart, 19 to choose from starting at $14.99.
Patricia Wentzel is an emerging poet from Sacramento, CA. Her poetry spans the breadth of human experience, from the dark to the rapturous. She often writes about mental illness and the impact Bipolar Disorder has had on her life. Her work has been seen in Brevities, the Light Ekphrastic, Petite Hound Press, Poetry Now, Medusa’s Kitchen and other publications. She is especially pleased to have two poems forthcoming in the Journal of the American Medical Association.