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Two ethereal beings make their way slowly along a lonely beach on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. One is carrying a stick over their winged shoulder with a heavy-looking pack attached. They seem to be walking in silence.

Finally, the Angel of the Church in Holland speaks.

“We’ve got to talk about it, buddy.”

“Nope. We don’t,” snaps the Angel of the Church in Grand Rapids.

“Come on now, GR. You know we do. I’m here for you.”

“But what can you do? What’s going to happen to me? I thought reassignment was only a remote possibility! But now…” GR is looking rough, halo drooping, wing-feathers misaligned and dull. It doesn’t help that the two angels are walking into a decent headwind.

“Yeah. Well, we started bracing for this two years ago.” Holland drops into silence again. Then, “Any word on where Headquarters might send you next?”

“Unclear. The paperwork is all in process, and you know how long that can take. I just… I just can’t believe this is the end. What some of those people are doing to each other! It’s always been a struggle with this bunch, but this! Things could have been so different…”

“GR, I’m so, so sorry.” Holland stops, turns, and looks GR in the ashen face. “Listen. Do you want to crash at my place for a while? I’ve just been remodeling a little—there’s plenty of room! For you and all your… baggage.”

GR has stopped, too, readjusting their wind-blown halo. “Well. That’s a kind offer. I dunno—let me think about it. I’m kinda camping out near the university these days.”

“It’s so windy! Let’s rest for a minute, OK?” Holland turns up the beach toward the dune and climbs a flight of wooden steps to a nicely appointed cottage deck overlooking the lake. The two angels make themselves more or less comfortable, pulling together a couple lounge chairs and arranging themselves in the chairs with some difficulty—lounge chairs aren’t made to accommodate wings. Once settled, they watch for a few minutes while the sun slides down the sky over the water. The lake flashes with diamonds, the water shades of forest green, navy, and moss, all glittering with surface light.

Holland pulls over a little side table with a wistful sigh. “I wish we had a couple Heavenly Ale brewskies to enjoy.” A sly look passes over Holland’s face. “Oh wait! Why, look what I just happen to have hidden in the many pockets of my robe’s folds and drapes!” Holland pulls out pretzels, some cheesy-looking twirly snacks, and a four-pack of what appears to be a craft brew.

“Indulge, my friend. Thankfully, we are immune to intoxication. And cholesterol!”

“Aren’t these humans going to freak out at us trespassing on their deck?” GR looks around to see if anyone is home.

“They can’t see us unless we want them to, remember?”

“Ugh, I am so losing my mind.”    

Holland glances over to the ginormous pack GR has placed carefully near the deck rail. “GR, I’ve been dying to ask. What on earth is in that bag you’re carrying around?”

“Grief, mostly.”


“And everything I want to carry with me for safety’s sake. Intellectual rigor and curiosity. Theological enthusiasm. Deep love for the Almighty and for the Bible—not everyone believes I’ve got those in there, you know. Longing for justice and peace. Earthiness. A sense of humor. Joyful connection. A little tribalism. Some fragments of Kuyperian thinking. A lot of treasures, really. I had to pack in a hurry.”

“You’re a good angel, GR. You’ve done beautiful work with those humans.”

GR looks deeply stricken. “Have I? What’s it all come to, though?”

“Only the Almighty knows. We’ve agreed, remember? The good things happened. They’re real. No guilt. No regrets. We’ve done our jobs: scolding, encouraging, warning, guiding. We can’t control these humans. They have choices.”

“Since when are you the confident one??” GR has not touched their beer yet. Or the snacks.

“I’m not! I’m a mess, too. I’m just trying to recite our usual affirmations.” Holland stuffs a few pretzels in their mouth and crunches thoughtfully.

“Hol, I am one depressed angel. I don’t even have the strength to get a whole bunch of very sad humans signed up for the Holy Spirit Special Rescue Team program. I’m fond of them, but I seem to have so little strength right now.”

“I get it.” Holland is now working on the cheesy swirlies. “Don’t worry. There are other angels in the firmament. The Schism Trauma Angel Therapy team has already deployed. Didn’t you know? They’re starting to arrive to care for your folks while you’re recombobulating.”

“Oh right. The STAT team.”

“Exactly. So. Is now a good time for a ‘Footprints’ poem joke?”

“NO!” But GR can’t help it—they’re smirking.

“You know what you need?” Holland reaches into another hidden pocket and pulls out a BlueTooth speaker.

“Now what.”

“You need some consolation from the queen of breakup songs: Taylor Swift.” Holland pulls out a phone and taps around on it uncertainly for a bit, puzzled but determined.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Nope. Trust me. Ah, here it is: the song ‘happiness’ from the evermore album. Now, how do I connect again…?”

“Happiness??? What?” GR offers a glare, wings twitching clumsily.

“Trust me. It fits.”

Minutes pass as the two angels listen pensively. “I see what you mean,” says GR quietly when the song concludes. “Good ol’ Tay Tay.”

Holland looks over at GR’s bag of treasures. “Remnants, my friend. The Holy One loves to work with remnants. Something is in the works, no doubt. Maybe you’ll just be reassigned to some kind of remnant. Look how you thought to pack up all that good stuff and keep it safe!”

“I just couldn’t bear to part with it.”

“Rightly so. Lots of hapless humans need that stuff. In ways they don’t even know. The world is a big place.”

“And we are very low-ranking angels in the scheme of things.” GR glances over at their own unopened beer.

“Yup, and that is why we get to hang out on a deck while Beings way above us figure this out. And we wait for some clear instructions from HQ. Go ahead, drink up. And have something to eat. I know we don’t technically need it, but it’s nice! Just hang out here a minute. Gather some strength. Maybe pat down those feathers a little.” Holland glances disapprovingly at GR’s tattered wings, kinked awkwardly against the deck.

“Shouldn’t we walk on?” GR still looks at once anxious and weary.

“Not just yet. Let’s watch the sunset. Then we’ll let the Maker’s stars guide us to whatever is next.”

Note: The Reformed Journal is not responsible for angel opinions, stated or implied. Also note that angels are non-gendered, hence “they/them” pronouns.

Debra Rienstra

I am a writer and literature professor, teaching literature and creative writing at Calvin University, where I have been on the faculty since 1996. Born and bred in the Reformed tradition, I’ve been unable to resist writing four books about theological topics: beware the writer doing theology without a license. My most recent book is Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth (Fortress, 2022). Besides the books, I’ve written well over two hundred essays for the RJ blog as well as numerous articles, poems, and reviews in popular and scholarly contexts. I have a B.A. from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers. I am married to Rev. Dr. Ron Rienstra, and together we have three grown children. Besides reading and writing, I love classical music, science fiction, fussing in the yard, hiking, and teaching myself useful skills like plant identification and—maybe someday—drywall repair.


  • Chuck Dykstra says:

    Great piece of creative writing for this era in the CRCNA. Thank you

  • Diane Dykgraaf says:

    The STAT team – love it.

  • Keith Mannes says:

    That paragraph of what the University used to be…
    Yep. Grief.
    I heard a rumor, though, about a football program coming? If so, well, see! That will boost enrollment, and make the angels sing again.

  • Barbara J. Hampton says:

    I’ve always believed that God works through remnants.

  • Jim Payton says:

    This was delightful to read. It was a balm in this painful season. Thank you for lifting spirits with this creative (and, challenging as that is in this period, humorous) story.

  • Jerry Kramer says:

    Some have entertained angels unawares. Others have disaffiliated them.

  • Jeff Carpenter says:

    “Chicago (area) Angel here, stuck in traffic as usual; wait up please! I had a hard-right detour through Illiana, but the Beach is now clear sailing ahead. Should be there for the Sunset . . .”

  • Rudy Eikelboom says:

    my song is
    “Born in the C.R.C.” by B.S.

  • Daniel Bos says:

    Frist time I laughed out loud in two weeks!

  • Arthur Tuls says:

    Thank-you for this light-hearted, heavy-hearted walk down the beach. I especially appreciated the treasures in GR’s pack! Mostly grief and yet a sense of humor. And I”m glad there’s no mention of cynicism, which pokes its sarcastic face out of my bag on occasion.

  • Emily Jane VandenBos Style says:

    Yes to Total Creativity. Sending a big colorful bouquet of tulips to each of these angels as they carry on, seizing the moment with artistic conversation, claiming once again the wonder of words. Thank you, Debra Rienstra!

  • Debra Rienstra says:

    Thanks to all for taking this in the spirit intended. Keep praying, everyone.

  • J. Groen says:

    Lovely, Debra. It’s painful to experience disintegration of our various east-of-the-city shelters. We have a right, along with these West MI angels, to be deeply angry and sad about the damage. Validating these feels, we discover the right of our Creator to be just as deeply concerned about all the humans and creatures we’ve tended to watch from the safe distance of our shelters.

    The Angels of Manhattan and Salt Lake City also grieved over their own gourdeater worms and hot winds. Nature walks by the waters of Central Park were regenerative for the hapless humans they were assigned to: “Nothing’s lost forever. In this world there’s a kind of painful progress, longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.” “The Bethesda fountain will flow again.” “The world only spins forward.” -Kushner’s Harper Pitt, Hannah Pitt, and Prior Walter

  • Deb Genzink says:

    Many compassionate pastors, churches and denominations are offering “landing spots” and resting places. A Holland (RCA) member said lovingly to us, “You know, we still feel the hole left from your departure 150 years ago! You are so very welcome to come back. “

  • Bev Vandermolen says:


  • Cute, fun, and thought provoking. Thank you.

  • Henny Flinterman Vroege says:

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