I have been presented with the lesson of The Guardian since I was a child. I won’t say study because, one, there are no words to this lesson. I cannot sit down and write a description of the words God has given me on this lesson followed by my understanding of it.
Two, there’s nowhere to go, so to speak, with this lesson. It’s not a lesson that I have had to spend time with.
It’s just a lesson that gets applied.
Oh, and it is, for some reason, for me, associated with the number 6.
Whatever that means.
But over the weeks that I worked on the book of Daniel, wanting to know what was behind a book of the Bible almost entirely dedicated to visions and miracles, having listened to the book every day, having buried my nose in a stack of commentaries, even having listened to the parts of a course on wisdom literature that dealt with Daniel, I could see that I was not going to address the issue of the visions. They’re all politics. Of another time and place. They are not about the mystery of God.
I could also see that the miracles stand strongly together to form a sort of block assertion: I just couldn’t “get” at what the assertion clearly was. God’s great if you’re on his team, yes, but there had to be more than that, I figured.
So, back to the Lesson of The Guardian. As I wrote above, there are no words to it describing it in pithy terms (like all my other lessons). The lesson of zero, for instance, goes: out of nothing comes everything.
You know, God speak. Usually responded to when first heard as, What? Come again!
But no, no inscrutable message. No scratching my head.
Just the assertion after I confront God that I don’t like being so limited, so restricted in my life: this is your guardian. You are being looked after. You’re needs are being met.
So throughout my life, with the notable exception of my marriage, there has always been a person, either directly in front of me or lurking around the corner of my consciousness, who is there in my times of need. At times, like in childhood (as most children do), I wanted to push out against those who met my needs, but also tried to curb my enthusiasm.
The problem with you, Julia, my mother said to me one day, is that you always have to be challenged.
Gee, Mom, why is that such a problem? (My question, of course, went unasked.)
I am, you see, something of a free spirit.
So when I feel my wings clipped, I complain.
And when I complain, I get the Lesson of The Guardian.
The underline of the response, of course, is that I should be grateful and, well, shut up.
I could say, Good Luck With That, Father, but I won’t.
And so on to Daniel.
Here is the story of a boy and his three friends who are seized by an enemy king and brought back to the enemy king’s land.
To be bettered. Groomed. Fed. Taught.
Talk about a Guardian.
Here is a man who is going to dedicate the resources of his kingdom to meet the needs of these boys. Granted, he’s doing this in order to better his own kingdom by using the gifts of the boys.
So the king (and his successors) is Daniel’s primary guardian.
When Daniel, as a boy, rejects the rich food and wine that the king is having him eat, up steps his second Guardian, the eunuch.
“I don’t want to eat this food and drink this wine,” whines (I hope he whined) Daniel. “I’ll see what I can do,” responds the eunuch.
And so, through the graces of the eunuch, Daniel and his friends get to become vegetarians and show all the other boys in the care of the king what it is to have strong and clean bodies.
Soon, the king is disturbed by bad dreams. I’m not going to tell you the content of my dream, rants the king to his dream advisers, but I want to you to tell me what it means anyway.
Can’t do it? Well, then, OFF WITH YOUR HEADS!
Oops, wrong story.
But close enough.
So Daniel, having become fond of his head, much like Alice, has a go at dream interpretation.
Pray for me and this dream, Daniel asks his friends. They pray. Daniel interprets.
All is well.
Guardian number three: an angel who slips Daniel the script of the dream, with annotations.
Handy angel. Handy Guardian.
No heads roll.
Years go by, and trouble is afoot. Daniel is out of town. And the king is tricked into condemning Daniel’s friends to death by fire. But not just any fire. A fire of enormous heat. So hot it burns up the guys who build it.
So, into the fire the boys go.
And back out of the fire the boys come.
No death. No dismemberment. Not even a hair singed.
Who’s the Guardian now, we can sing?
No less than the Son of God.
Whoever that is back in the Old Testament.
I have my theories. You have yours. We don’t have to agree.
It’s God, again. Making sure his boys are OK no matter what is thrown their way. And that’s really a key to the Guardian, I think. But more on that later.
Finally, years go by some more. Trouble is out and about again. Only it’s Daniel this time who gets trapped by the no-good-niks.
Into the lion’s den you go, Daniel. That’s a boy.
And out of the lion’s den you come, Daniel. What a boy!
Who helps out? The angel. (The same one as before, you may ask? How should I know, I answer.)
It’s always there: the care of God for his beloved. For his tools on Earth. For his walking PR team.
I have wondered, not infrequently, if, in actuality, if those people with an active and ongoing relationship with God benefit in very real terms from this relationship by having A Guardian (or two, or three) thrown across their paths in life.
It makes me think of the homeless person I spoke to one day, who described for me his love for that kind of life because (these are not his words) it allowed him to lead a life of wonder. When he needed something, invariably he would find it. God is always looking out for me, he explained to me.
Indeed, I wanted to respond.
In terms of Daniel, and I can relate to this, guardians provide room for the beloved to develop his talents and gifts.
In addition, prayers become the tool that the beloved uses in times of urgent guardianship.
But, ultimately, the Guardian provides protection.
I wonder if it is because of an experience and understanding of the Guardian that so many Christians can walk such dangerous paths, even to their own very real deaths, with such tranquility and grace.
The Guardian, then, gives the beloved a sense of security, a sense of containment, and a very real sense of love from God.
An indispensable need, this very real sense of love from God, if one is going to walk the mysterious path that is discipleship.