How do you measure spiritual stature? What is the yardstick? I took those
two questions with me into a reverent half-sleep and lifted them up in prayer.
Suddenly I saw in the eye of my mind a picture of a man crawling up the side of a muddy ditch. He was ugly and dirty and he wasn't getting anywhere: he kept sliding back down in the mud.
Then I saw a picture of a great, glorious, blazing angel, casting light all around him. He was beautiful and clean, and unbelievably powerful.
And then I saw the two of them, one above the other, like a split-image motion picture. The angel was as far above the man as a star is above the slime in the bottom of a ditch. He had achieved, or never lost, more than the man dared hope for. There was no question as to which was the superior being.
But then, as I looked more closely at that star-like, radiant angel, I saw him turn. I saw him pivot away from the vertical ... and as he turned, he fell.
A voice in the back of my mind asked, Which is to be admired? An aspiring human, or a falling angel?
The angel was still eons and light-years above the man, but he was falling like a meteor. I pitied him. And I understood. The measure is not of distance, but of direction. It does not matter what scale we paint on the yardstick, or where we align with that scale. All that matters is the direction, the way, in which a soul is traveling. Distance is not as important as direction, because direction determines destination ... which is another name for destiny.
"But," I asked in my ignorance, "What of the Master? Did Jesus also fall?"
I sensed about me a patient smile that I could not see. My educational motion-picture screen lit up again, and I saw a picture of Jesus, coming down from the Source of the Light ... feet first. He did not fall, because he did not change his orientation to the vertical; he descended.
And--smiling--he reached down, took the hand of that ugly, filthy, struggling human being, and lifted him up the slope of the ditch ...