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October 23, 1997

Dear Sir:
I once met an angel on Madison Avenue.
She didn't look like an angel. She didn't sound like one. She had no wings, only a grubby old coat and matted, thinning gray hair. But she was an angel, appearing in an unexpected place and an unexpected way. She irritated me. She smelled bad. And my first concern wasn't what I could learn from her but moving on down the street to continue my walk unharrassed. Like most of us, I missed the point entirely. Angels never look the way we think they should. Angels, in fact, do not have wings. Do not sport brilliant halos. Angels look like school children and construction workers and policemen and bakers and farmers. They look like janitors and CEO's and waitresses and garbage men. Looking like a vagrant is one of their favorite guises, and I should have known that. But an angel could also look like a gang member or a policeman. Whatever slips under our radar, that's what they will use because their purpose is not to rule us or even to guide us but to do the will of He who sent them. Their mission is often simply to invoke His presence or to ask a question. If they appeared in a ball of flame with a choir singing, we'd surely tell them what we think they wanted to hear, rather than answer honestly. For the honest answer, for the more meaningful lesson, an angel will most certainly appear in a guise we'd least expect.

And, by the time we even realize they've been among us, they're gone.

And that's what happened to me. I paid little attention to that woman, or to that moment in my life. So vested in my mortality, in my Me Vision, I didn't even realize this person was an angel until she'd vanished, leaving me standing in the snow on Madison Avenue at 2AM, quaking in the realization I had failed to accept and realize this divine vision. She'd come to challenge me, to help me be a better man, a better soul than I am now.

And then, just like that, she was gone.

Twenty Years Later

And so, here we are, twenty years later, and I have vanished on you. The end of our relationship was a sadly self-fulfilling prophecy; warnings you patronizingly dismissed. Seeing what you chose to see, and becoming increasingly irritated when the reality of our relationship did not validate your vision of it— with your interpretation of me and my purpose in your life.

Always ready to be a teacher, but, arrogantly, only a student to those you deem worthy of instructing you. Always in Teach Mode, having turned Learn Mode off some time ago. Always ready with your wrath, when a real man can *take* something. Ruthlessly selective in your emotional availability.

I left because I could not minister to you. I could not reach you. After spending years with me you'd learned nothing and have not grown at all. It was entirely a one-way street, you as teacher, and yes I learned a great deal from you. But, if you've grown at all, I haven't seen it. You're still far too thin skinned and short tempered, vindictive after a fashion and vested with a long memory of affronts against you. Open to interpreting everything in the most negative of ways rather than giving up the benefit of the doubt. What a horrible existence that must be. What a lonely and sad place to be. It takes me a long time to become insulted. I need a reasonable body of empirical evidence before I can arrive at the conclusion someone is deliberately trying to hurt or mistreat me, and even then I arrive at that conclusion with immeasurable sadness and concern for my accuser more so than for myself. None of which makes me the better man or even the teacher. It makes me the man I am, the Elohim or God-Man that I strive every day to be.

This is the reason for the rapid turnover within your ministry and your life. This explains your difficulty in maintaining long-term relationships and love. You have to want to be loved and be available to be loved. Your vision has to be more inclusive and you have to have a much broader interpretation of it. You certainly saw me in your ministry, and you saw an opportunity to minister to me. But you missed the fact I'd been sent to minister to you. You missed the fact my true purpose was to help you be a better man and a better friend. To demand a higher quality of investment and craft from you, to test your patience and your faith and to draw you out of your convenience and expand your comfort zone. To impart new ideas and new expressions of old ideas. To demand truer applications of doctrine and higher standards for those applications.

God sent me to you to make you a better man. He sent us to each other. But all you saw was Me Vision. All you saw was my weakness. My shortcomings. What you could do for me. You missed out on the work God was doing in you through me. And, not realizing my true purpose, you instead positioned yourself, at every interval and at every opportunity, to be my instructor, my corrector. When you really should have been my friend.

You really should have been available to the many things God was trying to show you through me. Through my weakness, through my clumsiness, through my infirmity, through all of the things you took as lacking in me or needing correction. With each mistake or misstep, God was speaking to you. In each of those faults was an opportunity for you to reach a new plateau and see a new horizon. Instead you defended the same ground and, hammering me with rehearsed platitudes, remained polarized by weakness, clumsiness and infirmity of faults you only rarely and painfully confess and ofttimes seem unaware of.

And now I can't help you. Now it's up to the next angel. The next person to come along and severely test your faith, your courage and your patience. Maybe that will be the one, or maybe you'll miss the point of that angel as well. But, don't worry: God will not give up on you. God has great and wondrous things in store for you. God has ordained a great purpose in your life.

He'll keep sending us until you get it right.

Christopher J. Priest
23 October 1997

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