I imagine myself in the shelter of God’s wings, safe and warm. Angels relieve me of my duties. I can hang up the worries of my day, click off my brain, and rest.
Be still, I tell myself, close your eyes and savour the rest.
Seconds later my eyes are open, my body tense. I can’t stop thinking about my son, Rudy. He hurt his ankle at work and has hobbled around for days. How can I get him to go to the doctor?
I need to get up. I’m overheating in these feathers. I need to…
“Let it go. You need to rest,” says a voice.
Yes. I have come to rest in God’s delicate down, to be still and pray.
As I feel myself relax again, I wonder if the Good Samaritan was praying on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. Maybe that’s why he saw the injured man.
I can’t believe it. I’m lying here in the shadow of God’s wings thinking of my next sermon. Oh well, maybe I should get up and write this down.
“No sermon writing!” says the same gravelly voice I heard earlier.
This voice isn’t God’s. It’s the angel sitting next to me—and I swear he’s just smoked a cigarette. He lowers his newspaper slightly. I see his pale blue eyes and unshaved cheeks. “Rest.” He wags his forefinger at me. “That’s all God wants you to do right now. Rest.”
He raises the sports section against my objections. I lie back down and blow off the feather that tickles my upper lip. Beads of sweat collect on the bridge of my nose. These wings feel like a straight jacket.
But it doesn’t. Acidic bile springs into my throat. A sudden cramp makes me hug my knees to my chest. “What’s going on? This isn’t comfy at all. I feel like I’m in a detox ward,” I tell him.
“In a way you are,” he says.
“What? I thought I came here to pray. Why would I need to dry out? I’ve never had more than two glasses of wine in an evening. Never done drugs. What do I need to detox from?”
“Your compulsive thoughts,” he answers. “Everybody’s got them. You’re so used to them you don’t realize how much they run your life.”
“So I’m here in the shadow of God’s wings to detoxify my brain?”
“More or less. Yeah.”
“This is prayer?” I tighten the grip on my knees against the second wave of cramps.
A female angel enters to relieve her colleague. “My goodness, it reeks in here,” she says to him. “How can you stand it?” The new angel brushes past me and yanks open a window. She inhales deeply. The cool air makes the perspiration on my neck tingle. She introduces herself and sits down, crossing one leg over the other. She wears support hose and a crisp white uniform.
“You’re doing fine. You’ve been praying for what? Seven and a half minutes, nearly eight. Give God another five or ten more, and you’ll be surprised by what he does with it.”
I wait a while longer. The no-nonsense angel crosses her arms and taps her forefinger on one elbow. She watches my distractions emerge, taunt me, and then leave. One look from
her tells them they are not welcome to return. When the last one departs, so does she, quietly closing the door behind her.
Finally I am alone with soft feathers and silence. In the solitude, I hear God’s heart beating. Or is it mine? Or is it both? We are connected by a wordless umbilical cord.
This is prayer?
This is prayer.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…
He will cover you with his feathers
And under his wings you will find refuge.
– Psalm 91:1,4