Somewhere deep in the woods of Northern Michigan, two ethereal beings sit on tree stumps near a campfire. Both slump in toward the fire, slowly twirling marshmallows on sticks and looking pensive.
“Oof. The air is terrible,” says the Angel of the Church in Holland. “How do these humans even breathe these days?”
“Thank the Almighty we don’t have to breathe–or eat–if we don’t want to,” says the Angel of the Church of Grand Rapids. “This whole wildfire thing reminds me of Revelation 8, the bit about ‘a third of the earth was burned up.’”
“Ugh, don’t go there!” Holland pleads. “Let’s just get through the next week before we start talking about apocalypse.”
“I don’t even want to think about this week,” GR mopes. “I’d rather think about apocalypse.” GR suddenly shoves their marshmallow straight into the hottest part of the fire, where it promptly incinerates.
“Hey! You ruined your marshmallow!”
“Don’t care. Hate ‘em anyway.”
“Well, no s’more for you, then!” Holland chirps, lifting their stick slowly away from the coals and deftly placing their perfectly toasted, poofy-sticky marshmallow between two graham cracker halves and pulling the stick out from the gooey middle. Holland takes a generous bite and starts chewing. “ymph gmph tmplhhh ymph phmphy pmph.”
“I said”—Holland is now licking very sticky fingers—“I said, it’s OK to talk about your feelings.”
“Come on. Last year at AngelPAC, when I was depressed, you encouraged me to talk about my feelings. We’ve all been to the Emotional Awareness Training. We got each other through last June. We can do it this year, too.”
GR shifts uncomfortably on the tree stump. “OK, fine. My feelings are: crap.”
“You can do better than that.”
“Are you invalidating my feelings??”
“Sorry.” Holland looks momentarily sheepish. “GR, I validate your feelings of crap. Would you be willing to say more about that?”
GR puts down the stick they’ve been stabbing violently into the fire, flutters their wings a bit, and looks upward toward the tops of the trees, now merely dark silhouettes against the night sky. “I’m angry. I’m sad. I feel as if we’ve reached the end of an era with this bunch, and I don’t know what’s next.”
“Good. That’s honest. Listen, bro…”
“Not a bro.”
“Right. Sorry. Listen, friend. I definitely validate those feelings because I feel the same way. You know what last year was like for my gang. We’re all in pieces now. And this year… do the words ‘resource hub’ mean anything to you?”
GR smirks. “Ha! Is that to, like, let the cats be freeeee?! No more cat herding?! What’s the scenario?
“Unclear.” A moment of silence.
GR begins again. “I know my bunch has been rough from the beginning. Pious, serious, sometimes exceedingly poopy…”
Holland chuckles at the word “poopy.”
GR continues. “… but we had—maybe have?—this wonderful intellectual tradition. A sense of real community—sometimes. A penchant for creating institutions that really served. Joy, even. There was joy.”
“Yeah, you got all the brains.” Holland mutters, getting stuck on that first part.
“Not true!” GR objects. “Your bunch had plenty of brains. Actually we both still do. It’s just… I don’t know.”
A long pause. Holland is rummaging through the bag of supplies, looking for wet wipes. GR has reclaimed their stick and is poking at the fire again.
“I just want to know: What happens next?” GR ventures, quietly.
“Only the Almighty knows. You went to Schism Management Training, too, right?”
“Yeah. But when does it stop being ‘schism’ and start being ‘nothing left’?”
“You know”—Holland sits up nice and straight and stretches their wings just enough to look impressive—“this is where I make the same move you did for me last year: perspective. We’ve got to have perspective.”
“Our little groups are so tiny and so young in the scheme of things. You and I—we’ve done our jobs. We scolded and warned and encouraged, as instructed. What the humans do with our sage advice is up to them. If these two little groups fall apart, well, there’s always a remnant to start over with.”
“I know,” GR sighs. “But in the meanwhile, there are real people who are casualties. People get damaged, hurt. They even leave the church altogether. It’s just sad.”
“You’re right, of course,” Holland replies, “and that’s why we have to make sure we get those people connected to the HSSRT immediately.
“The Holy Spirit Special Rescue Team?”
“Right.” Holland is on a pep-talk roll now, wings at half-mast, shimmering. “Remnants regroup! And look around—so many good people still in both our bunches of hapless humans. Some of those young pastors! Mission projects that now have a life of their own! Small churches that really do take care of each other and serve their communities! So many smart people educated at the schools!”
“You’re right, of course. I just feel as if we’ve failed.”
“No. You mustn’t think that. All the good things happened. They’re true, and no current mess can change that. The Almighty will see the good stuff to completion.”
“Whatever that means.”
“Exactly. And you know this: what we’re dealing with is not new. It hath ever been thus: church people are always whacking at each other with weapons of mass distraction, trying to avoid facing their real pain, the real dangers.”
“Whoo-hooo, that’s true!” GR leans back, wing tips brushing the forest floor, and almost laughs. “If we could only get them to see the real idols towering over them!”
“Some of them get it, a little.” Holland is rummaging through the supply bag again. “Now where did I put the Reese’s?”
“You’re right. Perspective. I mean, at least we’ve only got these little groups to deal with. Imagine being Rome!”
“Yeah, but Rome has a huge staff. Ah! Here they are!” Holland pulls out a packet of Reese’s peanut butter cups.
GR is now gently stirring the embers with their stick as the fire dies down. “Hol?”
“Thank you. I’m really glad we planned this meet-up to steel our strength before this week.”
“You’re welcome.” Holland stabs a marshmallow onto their stick and looks GR right in the celestial eye. “Let’s check in after the week and debrief, OK? I got you, bro.”
“Not a bro.”
Holland winks. “Right. Want a Reese’s?”
Note: The Reformed Journal is not responsible for angel opinions, stated or implied. Also note that angels are non-gendered, hence “they/them” pronouns.
Image credit: backpacker.com