People don’t really believe in angels these days. The popular media is flooded with images of fat, laughing babies with useless little wings and sparkly harps sitting idly on clouds. As far as anyone is concerned, angels turn into fairies when they grow up, trading in their flab for sex appeal.

What they certainly don’t believe is that angels exist, they serve God (or satan) and are unimaginably powerful. In my English class this week we somehow came to talk about the phenomenon of “Shinigami” arising in Japanese popular culture, and how it is drawn not from Japanese spiritual traditions but a misunderstanding of the artistic representation of Death in European culture. From here I explained that angels are usually imagined as described above, but then drew a simple representation of the angels as described in Revelation: tall, robed figures with a halo, six of wings and (from Genesis) a flaming sword. Then I explained that even this was just a representation, since angels (like God) are spirits without bodies.

Now we come to the question of guardian angels. I don’t know why so many Christians are ignorant or dismissive of guardian angels, since they form integral parts of both Old and New testaments (regularly ministering to Christ Himself). In any case, the thrust of it is this: if you are a living human being, you have a guardian angel. God has assigned one of his heavenly creatures to be your lifelong companion, to pray for you, to defend you against the evil one (assuming your cooperation), to protect you from harm and to deliver your prayers and petitions to God.

My friends know me to be a particularly clever guy who is frequently blinded by his own opinion of his intellect. Because my pride frequently has me thinking that I know everything, I find it particularly hard to believe anything. May this (through God’s grace and your prayers) change quickly, since on Thursday I probably experienced the direct intervention of my guardian angel to protect me from physical harm.

I was riding down the hill on Takeda road (the main street passing through the University of Yamanashi) in the evening when my friend Pierre moved slowly in front of me on his bike. Since I was moving very quickly, I had to slam on my brakes and swerve to avoid him – to the left was oncoming traffic, the right a large electrical relay box. I yelled「危ない!」(“watch out!”), and next thing I knew I was face first on the pavement with the bike between my knees.

I didn’t move for a while, just trying to get my breath. My friends came over calling my name, unsure whether I was hurt or could hear them. They slowly untangled my legs from the bicycle, and were debating what to do with me when I stood up and brushed myself off. I didn’t have any wounds, though the palms of my hands were aching and swollen. Basically, I was unharmed… then I saw the bike.

I should mention that in Japan it is common to ride these without a helmet. After I took the photos, I ended up walking the bike over to one of the university’s large bike stands and chaining it up, removing anything I could (since I don’t know what I’ll do with it, or when). The hill on Takeda road is quite steep, and at full speed a cyclist easily keeps up with the cars driving down it. For me to walk away with nothing but aching palms (and I haven’t even broken a bone from the impact) is astounding – my first response was “I knew how to take the fall”, but once I saw the bike I quickly realised that there was no way that this was my own doing. Even now I struggle with whether it is my reason or my faith that compels me to believe that I was preserved from harm by my guardian angel, though I think the reality is that neither faith nor reason can find a more sensible explanation for the facts.

Angels are real, they have mastery over the material world, and are charged by God with our protection.