Of Guardian Angels and Falling Trees

(In honor of the Memorial of the Guardian Angels, I’m sharing an angel story today.)

I was folding laundry in the house one day a few years ago when I heard an enormous crash that sent me racing to the window. There was my husband Dan, standing beside his car which was parked near the woods at the edge of our driveway. He had his head in his hands and a bewildered look on his face. There, on top of the car, was an enormous tree trunk.

I ran outside and immediately saw that my husband was alright, but the car was not. The hood was dented and a spider-web-style fracture stretched from one end of the windshield to the other. Dan stood silently beside me.

Now every good wife knows when her husband needs a little time to himself, and I figured this was most definitely one of those times. Years of marriage have taught me that in times of calamity – especially those that involve cars and money – a man needs a little space to process what has happened. So, though I wanted to talk about what had happened and ask all kinds of annoying questions (“How did this happen?” “Did you know we had a giant dead tree in the woods just waiting to fall on one of our children?” and “Will our insurance cover this?”) I kept quiet.

It wasn’t until later that I heard the entire story. About how Dan had just finished parking the car there when he heard a creaking sound in the woods. About how he had just barely managed to get out of the way of the falling tree himself before it hit. About how some branches of the tree had broken off and hit our van (which was parked next to the car) as well.

Now here is where I begin to marvel at how my husband and I can have so very different perspectives of the same event. My immediate reaction upon hearing all of this was a prayer of thanksgiving that nothing worse had happened: Thank goodness Dan was not hurt! Thank goodness his guardian angel managed to get him out of the way before that heavy tree could crush him. Thank goodness it was only a car that was damaged!

But, as I was gushing on about the marvelous powers of his guardian angel, what Dan said was this: I just can’t figure out why God would throw that tree at me.

And he was only partly joking.

Here we have clear examples of two very different ways in which people tend to perceive life’s inevitable mishaps. God gives us angels, but just how involved are they in our day-to-day decision-making and events? Is God involved and on our side – intervening and preventing worse things from happening? Or is God looking to punish us for some bad thing we have done?

As usual, I think the truth lies somewhere in between these two extremes. God loves us and wants what is best for us in the long run. That means He won’t necessarily always be “on our side” in the short run. He gives us the freedom make decisions even when He knows we are going to choose badly. He lets us experience the consequences of our own decisions. He lets some prayers go seemingly unanswered.

But (and now here is the part that I like to focus on) He gives us the Church, the sacraments, the communion of saints, and our guardian angels to steer us in the right direction ... and out of the way of falling trees.

Angel sent by God to guide me,
Be my light and walk beside me.
Be my guardian and protect me,
On the paths of life direct me.