The Angel Who Questioned God
by William Michaelian

While the angels were busy doing Godís housework, one of them took a break. My back is sore, he said, and he sat down on the edge of a white, fluffy cloud. Of course, his back wasnít really sore. But as he hadnít been in heaven very long, he could still remember coming home with a sore back after a long dayís work. It turned out some of the other angels suffered from similar complaints, though everyone he talked to said the problem passed soon enough. It is all part of Godís infinite wisdom, they said. Donít worry. Be patient.

And so he was patient. But after being patient for what seemed like an eternity, his back was still sore. On this day it was especially sore. Our Heavenly Fatherís bathroom faucets can wait, he said. Another eon wonít matter. And so he went and sat on the edge of a cloud.

The view was magnificent. That was one thing about heaven. God kept everyone so busy, no one really had time to enjoy the view. For those angels who had spent most of their time on earth inside, it didnít matter. But the outdoor types suffered. The farmers grew pale and despondent; the cross-country skiers were restless; the hairy lumberjacks tramped through the halls of Godís mansion looking for trees. They were happy, to be sure, but it was a miserable sort of happiness, a monotonous, uniform happiness. It certainly wasnít what theyíd seen advertised. Of course, then again, what was? Still, they expected more of heaven, just as they expected more of God.

Not that God wasnít awesome. He was awesome indeed ó so awesome, in fact, that it took three bands of angels working around the clock just to look after his flowing white hair. His eyebrows alone were as big as forests, and His nose resembled Mt. Rushmore. Everything about Him was magnified, which also meant He had a huge appetite. At a single meal, He ate as many sheep as most people count in a lifetime of sleepless nights.

Unfortunately, as awesome as God was, He had some annoying faults and habits. For one, He reeked of garlic. Being omnipresent, that was a bad thing. Also, He cracked His knuckles. While this explained the origin of thunder, it didnít do much for the angelsí eardrums. And who could ignore His favoritism? The idea of choosing one people over another hardly seemed befitting of someone who had created the world in seven days, as marvelous a feat as that was. Those who had been similarly treated by their own parents saw nothing wrong with this behavior. But their brothers and sisters, many of whom had spent their entire lives trying to be noticed and accepted, were crushed.

While he gazed at the world below, all of these things went through the angelís mind. Heaven was an interesting place, but it was much more like earth than he had expected. And what had he expected? Well, heaven. Instead, he was punching a celestial time clock and scarcely had time to think. To top it off, he was still waiting to be reunited with his kin. What was that all about? Wasnít that one of the basics? Thatís why he was shocked to learn, from no less than St. Peter himself, that family reunions were way down on Godís list of priorities. Donít worry, said the keeper of the pearly gates, Heíll get to it. In the meantime, here ó read a magazine.

A beautiful white bird flew by. A minute or so later, it flew by again. A minute later, it flew by a third time. The strange thing was, the bird was always flying in the same direction. When it flew by a fourth time, the angel called out, Why is it that each time I see you, youíre going the same way? But the bird didnít answer. A minute later, it sped by again. Because, it said, and then it was gone. A minute later, it added, God, and then it was gone. A minute later, it said, says, and it quickly disappeared. A minute later, it said, we, and it streaked away. Until, finally, the angel had the whole message: Because God says we can only go this way. Its message complete, the bird, which reminded the angel a great deal of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, finally stopped coming.
This is ludicrous, the angel said to himself. What business does God have telling birds which way they can fly? I donít care who He is.

Feeling disgruntled, the angel started thinking about the life heíd left behind. The earth was such a nice place, truly a glorious planet. And the people heíd known ó while none of them were anywhere near perfect, he had found their many-layered personalities endlessly fascinating. Of course there were criminals among them ó thieves, politicians, warmongers. But there were also musicians who had made him weep, and clear-eyed children who had given him hope. And nature. A single drop of dew was a whole world unto itself. Blades of grass, acorns, waterfalls, butterflies, snowflakes ó there was literally no end to the splendor, and an inexhaustible supply of wonderful things to feed the imagination.

And then it occurred to him: What if God hadnít made these things, as he had been taught to believe? What if they were the accidental result of life itself, which had in turn been born of explosive chaos? Didnít that make God a petty ruler? Perhaps at one time there had been many gods. Who was to know? Perhaps God had done away with them, one by one, and thereby stolen the universe. While impossible to prove, it made a certain amount of sense. What didnít make sense was a god who stood by while millions of his children starved, and while millions of others were killed in wars. That was something he could never figure out. There were handy explanations, to be sure, but they were hardly believable. They sounded more like excuses. And why should people have to make excuses for God? Shouldnít it have been the other way around?

He thought this over. All his life, he had believed, as his mother and father had believed, that God was great and God was good. He had believed it without question, and this belief had apparently landed him in heaven. If this was heaven. Was it? Or was heaven down below? After all, a definite argument could be made in the earthís favor. Meanwhile, what was supposed to have been a life of harmony had done little more than leave a bitter taste in his mouth ó and give him a sore back.

Below him, the earth beckoned ó its blue oceans and emerald continents, its polar ice caps and volcanoes, its ever-changing lacy strands of vapor that everyone called clouds. Deeply moved, he began to weep. I want to go home, he said. I donít want to be here. I donít like heaven. God or no God, I prefer the mystery that is life. Do not tell me what is right or wrong. I am prepared to face them both. I am ready to live again, and to love again. I want to dream. The earth is where I belong.

And the angelís tears flowed. Abundant and warm, they fell upon the earth.

Then he slept.

When he awoke, it was to the sound of his own voice, a voice that was a babyís crying.

And on that day, God was born again, and He resolved this time to make the world a better place. He is working at it still.

William Michaelianís newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelianís other books and links to this siteís other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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