Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Angels and Bulls

Today on the church calendar we remember St. Michael and All Angels.

Do you believe in angels? I don’t know if I do, but I love the imagery and the spiritual energy that is named angel. To me angels are metaphors for spiritual strength—the kind needed for liberation.

Angels are like bulls charging into life’s injustices full force. That’s why they are pictured with weaponry, divine armor which does not mean you are to start a war either inside or outside yourself but rather to trust that inner strength will be provided.

It seems too sentimental, except for children, to say that angels "guard" individuals. I think angels guard divine values—justice, peace and compassion—by giving us wings to fly free and help others fly.

In the bible angels are messengers, fierce messengers announcing news of something new that will require your attention, your best resources and your creative imagination. When imagination and the forces for good are let loose, angels fly, bulls charge. There is death and there is new life.

Today I read in the Boston Globe that a 1,400 pound bull had escaped from a slaughterhouse in Paterson N.J. and dragged police officers with a lasso down the street ten blocks. The bull charged forward with brute force, running for his mighty life, refusing to succumb to the forces of violence that threatened his beautiful life.

My heart flew with the bull as I stared at the photo. Angels were with that bull as he made a run for life and freedom against impossible odds. I admired that bull. His effort was futile. It took an hour to corral him, sedate him and return him to slaughter. I will think of that bull the next time I order steak and am asked how I would like it cooked. The bull’s effort was futile, not wasted.

Sometimes our best efforts for the good end in tragedy. The courageous among us make these efforts anyway. Liberation is never easy. Liberation requires heroism, strong force. Many literally die like the bull, but all liberators wake us up and all are beloved.

Once a bull was an angel of liberation for me. He came out one day in therapy when my brilliant and uppity therapist suggested I give my restless inner energy an animal identity. I knew right away it was a bull. I’d spent lots of childhood time on a farm. I knew bulls up close and personal. In spite of my fear at their ferocity and power I was fascinated. My therapist told me to be a bull, right there in her office. As appalled as I was I was at a stage in my therapy that if she told me gravel was food I’d have eaten it. I started to paw the carpet, roar, howl, snort. What was probably five minutes or less released thirty years of rage. When the bull quieted I emerged transformed. A feeling of absolute peace enveloped me and strangely sharpened my vision so I looked up at my therapist and for the first time noticed how beautiful her face was.

She asked if I had words. A hymn came to mind, “Father Eternal, Ruler of Creation.” It’s a violent hymn, relentlessly, verse by verse, detailing the destructive powers of oppression and war. The refrain is Thy kingdom come, oh Lord, thy will be done. I sang it to her.