Leap of Faith
Some months ago, I was thinking about what it meant to take a "leap of faith." The phrase had been going through my head, and I was trying to figure out how to best describe it.
I have some idea of what it means.
I've taken a few of those leaps in my life. In fact, there have been more than a few moments when I decided to leap, hoping beyond hope that whatever faith compelled me to do so would sustain me if I fell on my face.
Then, one day, I decided to write a poem about taking a leap of faith, letting the feelings and images in my head guide me. Here is what I wrote:
Leap of Faith
There's no safety net in this
circus tent, no trampoline
below to stop the fall, and
send you springing to your feet
to the sound of thunderous applause.
Instead, there is only a sawdust floor
and an aisle paved with the good
intentions of those who now stand
below, staring upward with an
open-mouthed, incredulous stare.
The look on their faces says it all:
"He's about to die, or worse yet be
maimed for life, bound to a bed, or
to a chair," and all because you dared
to jump to that other trapeze, the
one swinging slowly to and fro the
other side of the one in your hands,
a trapeze swung by those smiling few
who made the jump and lived.
When I finished the poem, I walked away from it for a while and then came back to read it more closely.
I was surprised at what came out of the feelings and images conjured up as I wrote. The idea of a circus and a trapeze was not what I had expected when I sat down to write.
I suppose the circus images appeared when I asked myself, "What if you made a leap of faith, and there was no safety net?" It seemed simple then that any leap of faith has no net below it.
And then there was the crowd below, the doubters, the fearful, the naysayers. Those kinds of people are always there when we are considering leaping in faith, aren't they?
These are the people who make us doubt ourselves. They are the ones who stand safely on the ground, far from any kind of true challenge, content to never take a leap of faith in their life.
But there is something else at the end of the poem. People on the other side of the swinging trapezes have made the leap before. And they are smiling and holding out their hands to receive us.
This is where the poem ends without a resolution.
It's up to the reader to decide whether the narrator made the leap. It's also up to the reader to decide whether they would make it. Do they pay heed to the people on the ground and climb down from the trapeze? Or do they push off and swing forward to the people who've done it?
The fascinating part about this poem is that it reveals a startling truth: We rarely, if ever, take leaps of faith on our own.
There are always going to be people on the ground. There will always be the people who have leaped before us. Who we listen to depends on how much we believe in ourselves and the God who placed the longing to leap inside of us.
The people on the ground are afraid. They might be afraid for us, for sure. But the bulk of their fears are wrapped up in what it says about them if we leap and succeed.
From their place on the ground looking up, they might even hope we take a tumble because that will solidify in their minds that the ground is the place to be.
In contrast, the people on the other side of the trapeze swing know what it's like to stand where you stand. They know what it's like to swing, let go, and grasp hold of something new. They know this, and the feeling is one they want others to share.
These are the kinds of friends we need in life. These are God-given friends who tell us what we need to hear, not simply what we might want to hear.
And what do we need to hear in those moments of a leap of faith?
"You got this!"
"We know you can do it!"
"Don't look down, just jump!"
"It's an amazing feeling once you're over here!"
We can take these words as the very words of God to our ears. To leap is not some test of our faith; it's the fulfillment of it. It's us putting our longings into action, letting go of what was, and taking hold of what is to come.
And then, when we are safely on the other side, we, too, can turn and begin encouraging the next intrepid soul who grabs hold of the trapeze and thinks about following us.
May it be so for all of us. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.