Be an Angel
Start at the Very BeginningThinking about the beauty of the angelic world gives a glimpse of the beauty and greatness of God
. —Serge-Thomas Bonino
What does it mean to be an angel?
I’ve thought about this question a lot, especially since I had the privilege of playing one on television for almost ten years. I loved being Monica, the kindhearted angel on the hit show Touched by an Angel. Some years later, I produced The Bible, an epic miniseries that required casting and costuming a heavenly host. My work on these projects compelled me to study angels—their work, their messages, their connection to God and people. I’m thrilled to share with you some of what I’ve experienced and learned.
The simplest definition of angel is “a messenger, especially of God.” In the nearly three hundred references to angels in the Bible, we find angels speaking the words of God, bringing the news of God, and doing the work of God. Angels repeatedly told people not to fear. They reminded people of God’s nearness. They brought hope and light.
Angels defend and protect us, mainly from our enemies but sometimes from ourselves. They guide and direct us when we’re lost or confused. Angels speak the truth: God loves us and we are never alone. This message brings healing and restoration; every hurt done to us and every hurt we have done can be forgiven.
Oh, how I need to hear this! How we all need to hear this!
Over the years, because of my role on TV, people often mistook me for an actual angel. They projected their feelings about the show onto me and my co-star Della Reese. I sometimes wanted to explain, “I’m just a person—a human!”
There was one incident at a children’s hospital I was visiting. I walked by a room filled with sadness. A young child had passed away, and heartbreaking grief poured out of the room with the remaining family members. The bereft mother saw me, recognized me from TV, grabbed me in an embrace, and began weeping.
“Monica,” she sobbed. “I prayed that God would send me an angel, and here you are.”
I honestly didn’t know what to say. She needed an angel, and I was just an actress in the hallway of a hospital. I held her close and quietly prayed for her and her loved ones. After a while, she thanked me, then returned to join her family. I left feeling so very sad.
Later that night, I recounted the story to Della. “She thought God sent me,” I lamented. “She thought I was an angel.”
My wise, wonderful friend replied, “Baby girl, who’s to say God didn’t send you to be there?”
Della taught me that if we’re going to be used by God, we need to let go of our expectations and get out of the way. Since then, I have tried to do that very thing, never pretending to be anything I’m not but simply holding a loving space for others.
Della also helped me understand that a person who speaks the truth of God or performs a mission for Him fulfills a heavenly role like the angels do. That’s why we call a woman like Mother Teresa an angel of mercy. She was a human, just like us, but she chose to be like an angel in how she lived. That’s how I want to live.
The words of angel expert Serge-Thomas Bonino that you read at the opening of this entry remind us that angels give us a glimpse into the beauty and greatness of God. What if you and I lived so that people saw more of His beauty and greatness through us? What if we lived in such a way that kindness, truth, and love defined us? I believe it’s possible for us to be like angels in bringing God’s message to Earth.
That’s why I chose to write this book. I want to encourage you, as I’ve been encouraged, to live like an angel on Earth. I want you to join me in speaking words of hope to a hurting world, bringing light into darkness.
At the end of each chapter, there will be a “Be an Angel” section where I’ll invite you to put what you’ve read into practice. Some of these suggestions will be exciting and fun; others may challenge you. Some will involve things to ponder; others will invite you to action. I pray each inspires you to give or receive a glimpse of God’s beauty and greatness. Are you ready to get started? If so, let’s begin!
Be an Angel
Sometimes gentle and soothing words can be as comforting as a warm breeze. Today, why not take a moment to write a note to someone who is going through a tough season and let them know you’re thinking of them? Your loving words and the time you took to reach out will remind them they are loved and never alone.2
Stay GoldenIn everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
I ’m so grateful for the special relationship God has given me with Reilly, my beautiful daughter. From the moment I first held Reilly in my arms, God opened the door to a love stronger and deeper than I’d ever imagined. I cherished the times we spent during her early years, building snowmen in the winter and sandcastles in the summer. We constructed elaborate forts for stuffed animals, with whom we also reenacted our favorite movies. As Reilly grew, I celebrated her accomplishments and helped her during heartache. Whatever we’re doing, wherever we are, I love being her mom.
When Reilly hit adolescence, she sometimes had questions about school, friends, or teenage drama. As part of the theater program at school, she and her classmates had to navigate getting—or not getting—the roles they wanted.
“I don’t know what to do, Mom,” she’d lament.
“What would you want someone else to do in this situation?” I’d usually respond. “How would you feel if you were in the other person’s place?”
“My feelings would be hurt,” she might reply, or “It was really disappointing to make it through to the final callback and not get the part.”
Reilly and I had important talks about rejection. In the acting world, someone will always have the happy feeling (I got the part!), while someone else will have the hard feeling (I didn’t land the role). I wanted her to know that, even though rejection is a big part of the entertainment world, she could reframe her thoughts, putting herself in the place of others, and deliberately respond with kindness.
In these conversations, I pointed Reilly back to the Golden Rule. The gospel of Matthew records how Jesus articulated this principle: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (7:12). A version of this simple maxim can be found in almost every culture around the globe.
Over the years, I spent time cultivating Golden-Rule kindness with Reilly. We’d discuss whether she needed to do something for someone or show compassion and forgiveness to someone. Times when Reilly or I needed to ask for forgiveness from someone else arose too. Pondering the Golden Rule almost always led us to the best next step, whether that was a decision to make or an action to take. When my daughter and I chose to align ourselves with the words of Jesus, we brought more of His love and light to the world, just like His heavenly angels do when they touch human lives.
How do you respond to this, dear one? Do you regularly practice the Golden Rule? If so, keep going! If not or if your answer is “Sometimes but not always” (like it is for most of us!), today is a great day to start reflecting God’s character of love, kindness, and respect for all people. You can be like an angel on Earth by staying golden.
Be an Angel
Pure gold is beautiful and valuable. Living a Golden-Rule life is lovely and precious too. Take a deep breath and think about the last time you had a disagreement with someone you love. Consider how the situation might have changed if you had changed. Even if the other person was more in the wrong, how might your practicing the Golden Rule have altered your conflict? Jot a few thoughts down in a journal and then talk with the Lord about it in prayer. You’ll glow more golden as you do.3
Exceed ExpectationsUnexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.
Bob Kerrey grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, during the 1940s and ’50s. Nothing prepared him for what he witnessed—and participated in—as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War. Wounded and permanently disabled during his tour of duty, Kerrey received an unexpected gift: compassion for those who suffer and an appreciation for the capacity of leaders to change lives. He became a leader to do just that. His words about kindness resonate powerfully because his experience could have turned him cold and embittered.
In a world that expects otherwise, kindness sets us apart. Unexpected kindness disarms people and de-escalates conflict. To an often hurting and angry world, kindness reveals a patient and merciful God, a God who loves. Like Bob Kerrey, I believe kindness is the most potent, the least expensive, and an all-too-often underestimated agent of change.