My friend and co-writer Joe writes: “Angels are figments of the human imagination”. Joe represents a scientific perspective that unless something can be objectively measured and quantified it isn’t real. People with a purely scientific mindset don’t make room for people like me, who believe that great mystery we call God/Spirit is as real as anything that can be materially proven.
I’d go further and say that which is most real for me are precisely those spiritual experiences that I can’t measure or quantify. Joe would say that it’s all a product of my imagination, my need, rather than the result of a force or presence greater than myself. Is Joe right?
In Celtic spirituality there is the concept of the ‘thin place’. The Celts before and after becoming Christian believed that there was a permeable membrane, that separates the conscious world from that of the sacred/the other/the holy. They believe that we spend most of our time in the conscious world, the world of schedules and objective measurable outcomes. Yet, the Celts believe that there is another realm at work which if we are attentive, we may slip into. Have you ever had a moment when you sensed there was more going on than meets the eye?
Since boyhood I have had moments when I experienced this thin place. At age ten I remember being in a forest and sensing a connection to all that was around me. Was this a figment of my imagination? As a pastor I have many times prayed with family members at the moment of their loved ones passing. Gathered around the death-bed many remarked that they felt a presence of love. Were such experiences wishful thinking?
Nine years ago I was recovering from surgery. There were complications and I remember walking with my I.V poll around the quiet hospital halls at 3 a.m. My fellow patients were sleeping but I could only find relief to my physical pain by walking. My path was circular and I would walk by the same rooms again and again. On one occasion I saw an older woman leaning in a doorway. She wore a lovely dress as if she had just come from the theater. She had beautiful black hair and wore a red silk scarf. She watched me as I approached (wearing my hospital gown and in obvious distress). She touched my arm as I was about to walk past. She said: ‘Everything is going to be all right’. I continued with my walk and upon my return looked to say ‘thank you’ but she was gone.
An objective observer would say, my early morning visitor was simply offering a kind word. Nothing more. She was probably stopping in to visit a friend or family member after a night on the town. Perhaps. Yet, I remember how her kind words and gentle touch affected me. After she spoke with me I knew that I was going to be ok. I knew that this stranger was a gift, a blessing, dare I say ‘an angel’, sent to encourage me when I needed encouragement the most.
I can’t prove it. Can’t measure or quantify what I experienced. But in the early morning hours on that hospital ward, a woman in a lovely party dress, with black hair and a red silk scarf, touched my arm and told me ‘everything is going to be all right’ and I knew she knew.
There are moments the Celts tell us, when we enter the ‘thin place’, and we know that we are not alone, indeed, we enter a place of blessing. Do I believe angels exist? Yes. Can I prove it? No. Do I feel the need to prove it? No. Ever sensed that there was more going on than you could objectively measure, quantify or prove?