Painting — “Angel”
Sometimes, love arrives as though it were a spaceship landing in the back yard. The captain comes out of the ship and says to us, "Hi, I'm here to beam you up! Come on! We're going!"
Yet so many times we reject him, saying, "Uh, well, I can't just leave here so fast. Actually, I can't even believe you're here. How long do I have to prepare my things?"
And he says, "You have no time at all. Your entire life been spent preparing. Now, we must go quickly. If you wait, your eyes will adjust and you will no longer see me. I've just landed for a bit, to pick you up. You have an hour, max. You can make further plans from the ship."
The captain sees that we are bewildered, but so is he, "Haven't you been asking for this for years?" he asks.
"Well, yes," we say. "I have. But I guess I didn't think you were coming. ... I sort of made a life for myself here, in the meantime."
"Not that much of one, judging from your prayers at night," he tells us. "Let's go, if you're coming. I can't wait forever."
And then we say, if we say it, what is ultimately the most tragic thing we will ever say, and that is, "No, thank you." No, I don't choose the ride, even though I want it desperately. No, I don't want to beam up now, even though it's a living hell down here. No, I do not choose the path of wild and radical and authentic love, even though I know I am dying without it. I think I'll just settle for "good enough."
And why do we do that? Why do we not receive with open arms the answers to our prayers? Because we ourselves are authoring what will one day look like natural selection. The human race is turning a corner, and those who choose not to make the turn will keep going straight until they fall off the cliff ahead.
Angels are onboard those spaceships, appearing everywhere now, often in the guise of loved ones holding the torch that would light our way through darkness. On the other side of that darkness is the light in which dreams come true. But there are demons in that darkness, to be sure, and we can feel them. They almost paralyze us with fear. All those unloved parts of ourselves are there, ugly and twisted and ready to destroy. They live in the darkness, on the other side of which is paradise itself. Even though the only way to paradise is through the darkness—and even though the fire of the angel's torch will burn the demons up, not us—we do not trust that. We lack faith. We are staunch and calcified in our refusal to choose love, and so we say to the angel, "No, you go ahead. I'll stay here."
The angel looks at us in disbelief; the refusal of ecstasy is unknown in heaven. The space captain can scarcely believe his ears, but noninterference in and respect for the choices of another human being is a must on the enlightened path. Not that you can force anyone onto a spaceship anyway. One only rides on the wings of an angel if one is seriously committed to the experience of heaven. The lure of hell is so very real here.
Still, as the ship takes off, the captain looks at the angel onboard and notices that there are tiny sparkling rivers of water, falling from her eyes.
Back at headquarters, the angel reports to higher-ups.
"He chose not to go."
The superior is silent, witnessing the angel's pain. The angel continues. "I can hardly believe it. He chose not to go.
"Do you think he understands the consequences?" asks the superior.
"I don't know," says the angel. "I think he thinks that staying there is the more responsible thing to do."
"Responsible ... to whom? To what?"
"I don't know. It's strange. He's not ecstatically happy there, but he thinks it's his duty to stay. He feels it's an adult situation, and he lives in fear that he is not one."
"Yes, of course. Well, we've seen this before. They choose psychology over poetry. We keep trying to evacuate that realm before the storm hits, but people refuse evacuation."
"You prayed for him, of course."
"Oh, yes. With all my heart."
"Well. Job well done. Sorry if your heart was a little bruised on this mission. It's one of the risks, you know. It can happen, of course."
"Still, they're touching creatures. Contentious, but touching.
The angel was trained for love, she was disciplined in love, but her tears still flowed.
You're excused. You may go."
As the angel turned around to weep, her superior called her back. "I say, one thing. . . . Do remember—you'll see him again someday."
"Will I really, Master? Will I really?"
"Of course you will. You must cleave to your own faith at times like these. How else can you convince them of theirs, if you don't?"
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