Angels come to us in times of great need. Our need, like a beacon, tears a gap in the gauzy tissue between the heavenly realm and our own. Pain, suffering, or powerful desire can all wear that gauze thin. So can constant prayer. Through those rents in the veil, angels come to bring us the good news that God is with us. We are favored ones indeed. Not in spite of our need, but because of it. Often when the light is dimmest, the glow of the angels come to light our way home in the dark.
I know this is true, because I have experienced it. When I was a child, an angel named David came to me. David was a year older than I, and our friendship lasted only a year or a little more. I was about 10 years old. Our mothers introduced us. Although we went to the same school, I only remember seeing him there once or twice. But David’s mother was a regular at the diner where mine worked. As our mothers talked, they soon realized that they both had sons about the same age, who went to the same school. They figured they should get us together.
Even though David was older than I, I never felt the difference. In fact, one of the most amazing parts of our friendship was that, despite many disparities—age, class, family structure—I never felt strange or unwelcome around him. My mom and I lived in a small apartment sandwiched between the tidy homes of middle class Lakewood and the rougher barrios of the Latino immigrants. David and his family lived in one of those quiet, spacious neighborhoods.
The equanimity with which David and his family greeted me was freeing. I can remember my fascination and disbelief when David’s mom told me they were installing new counters in the kitchen. Having lived my life in apartments, I had no idea you could just replace counters. There was no laughter, though. David’s mom treated my questions about the installation seriously and made sure I was satisfied with her responses.
Once, David’s family invited me for a weekend at their lake house. This was something new for me. I’d been to the beaches at Biloxi and to Palo Dura Canyon with my grandparents. But I’d never had a friend offer to bring me on vacation. I’m sure the cost and inconvenience of taking an extra 10 year old along was nothing to David’s parents. But to me the generosity of that invitation was a soft, cool hand reaching out to touch me in my isolation.
I’m nearly positive looking back that David was the first person I was ever drawn to in a way I’d now call sexual or spiritual. I thought about him all the time and longed to be near him when I wasn’t. When we were alone in a room together, I wanted to be as physically near him as I could. I can now see that my longing for connection with David was, in some sense, a yearning after wholeness, a plea for someone or something to pull me out of my isolation. And yet, the yearning was particular, tied to one person in one place and time. It was incarnational.
One night I slept over at David’s house. We stayed up very late—it might have been all night—putting together a Lego model of a medieval castle and talking. The contents of our conversation have evaporated. But I do remember feeling intensely the connection between us. In my memory it seems practically electric, nearly tangible. I was lost to time, wholly absorbed in our activity, our conversation, our togetherness. In the memory, I desperately wanted to kiss him. Despite the intensity of our friendship, today I cannot even remember what David looked like. I see only the soft, pale glow of a heavenly luminescence.
The tension between solitude and connection has ran through my early experiences. In relationships, I often experienced my own essential, existential solitude. At the same time, I knew the deep desire to connect my solitude to someone else’s. The search for connection and all that it entails—loneliness, longing, elation when connection is made, joy and satisfaction when I am able to let solitude and silence absorb me—for years echoed my experience of God.
Still today, my prayer arises from a deep longing for union with myself and with the Divine. When that connection is made, the self somehow dissolves into a union that is both solitary and connected, and yet transcends even those categories. Real unity, wholeness, and connection have always led me to a truer, deeper silence and solitude.
Did that night with David, with all its electricity, really happen? Or is it a heavenly vision, a godly messenger at a time when I needed to know I was not alone? I don’t know. But I’ve read enough novels to know that something doesn’t have to be factual to be true. Whether my lips ever actually touched David’s or not, I can feel the gentle pressure of his skin on mine, the heat of his body and the heaviness and moisture of the air between us still. The angel of his memory still calls its ave. And its heavenly light still lights my way home to God.
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