While setting up my office at the church, I needed a hammer. Most offices have a box of hand tools and odds and ends, so I went looking. I found it in the cabinet right over the coffee machine, predictably labeled “Tools.” But inside I discovered one of the secrets of Bethesda. Somewhere on site, we have our very own broken angel.
At first I thought the angel wing in the toolbox was there for repair. You know, like a spare part, in case one of our volunteers comes in one day and obviously needs a little lift. Anyone who’s worked with volunteers knows they can get that way, especially if they feel they’re being taken for granted. When that happens, their wings get all ruffled up. So, it’s a good idea to have a few spare wings available to get them back on flight.
But, on closer examination, I realized the angel wing in the tool box had a jagged, broken edge. It was not a spare, but a broken wing. Immediately I realized the truth. Somewhere, hidden in the midst of this loving congregation is an angel whose wing has been snapped off!
My first response was to drop into “pastoral fix-it” mode. In other words, I was thinking, “Well, we’ll just have to find this person and get this wing re-attached.” But how will we know who it is? Real angels hide their wings until needed. Looking through the pictorial directory (which I’ve done a lot of lately) won’t help.
My second response was to wonder, “What in the world happened to snap off this wing?” Was it an insult, a trauma, rejection, a failure, perfectionism gone awry, or maybe exhaustion that led to a careless accident? Whatever it was, you know the incident left some wounds, some hurts to carry around, hidden inside.
So, here’s what we know so far. The people of Bethesda appear to be normal, fine folks, but one of them is really an angel with some history. This person, whose only desire is to serve, has a hidden hurt, and can no longer lift self or others in flight.
The challenge is obvious. Our words and actions will have to replace the lifting power of the broken wing. And since we don’t know which person is the hidden angel in need of a wing, we’ll have to lift up every person we encounter. Come to think of it, that might not be so bad – if we really get the hang of it, we might even become a refuge for anyone with broken wings.