Faith of Leap
It was a hot summer Sunday morning in 1996 in Boston, Massachusetts. Hundreds of worshipers were packed into a sweltering sanctuary of the historic Roxbury Presbyterian Church, one of the city’s landmark African American congregations. Beads of anticipation were dripping down people’s upturned faces as the preacher ascended the platform. Over the next 45 minutes, he started in low, rose high, struck fire, and sat down in the storm.
Shortly after, he looked over the congregation and announced, “You may have noticed we have some guests with us this morning.” There on the left side were three rows of lily-white worshipers, marshmallows in a sea of rich hot chocolate. The preacher, inspired, thundered to the group leader, “Brother, won’t you come on down here and share a few words with us?” It was a question, but it came out as an order.
The group leader’s body temperature instantly spiked to an alarming fever. He gulped hard and came to the front. A few polite amens rose from the congregation as he stumbled over some words he had found hanging in the humid air. Then the preacher, dripping with both perspiration and inspiration, threw his arm around the blushing young leader, looked him straight in the eye, then turned to the congregation. “Brother Jacobs,” he said, “has just accepted a call into the ministry!”
That was me, standing there on the threshold of the rest of my life with the preacher/prophet that day in 1996. And the rest, you might say, is history. That’s how I ended up here. Hurmon Hamilton spoke a prophetic word over me. There’s more to the story, of course, but nothing as good as that.
I wonder how that story makes you feel. What if that were you? Would you be exhilarated? Humbled? Confused? Terrified? Or a combination of the above?
That’s just a little story from my life. But consider a man named Abram (a.k.a. Abraham), and imagine what it might have been like for him and his wife Sarai when this happened to them…
The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." So Abram left, as the LORD had told him… (Genesis 12.1-4)
How would Abram have felt as he stood there on the threshold? Exhilarated? Humbled? Confused? Terrified? Threshold experiences like Abraham’s can change our life forever and lead to the life God wants us to have.
Alan Hirsch describes thresholds this way: “It is composed of any or a combination of danger, marginality, disorientation, or ordeal, and tends to create a space that is neither here nor there, a transitional stage between what was, and what is to come.” It’s full of both possibility and risk.
Take Abraham. It’s hard to imagine how there could be more risk here. And yet, verse 4 puts it very starkly: “So Abram left.” He just got up and went. God’s Word doesn’t say if he was scared, or how he dealt with people who thought he was crazy (maybe including his wife!), or what the details were. It just says that he left. Literally, he started walking. An amazing risk.
Someone might say that Abraham took a “leap of faith,” a phrase which often means that someone just leaps off the deep end with no good reason other than that they have faith. I think it’s more accurate to say that Abraham had a “faith of leap.” Somehow, his encounter with God was so compelling, and God’s promise was so good, that he mustered, or was given, the faith to leap into all the risk. And Abraham would look back and say, much later in his life, “and that’s how I ended up here.”
But here’s the main thing: this account from Genesis is really primarily not about Abraham. And my story of what happened that day in Boston is really primarily not about me. And the threshold experiences of your life are really primarily not about you. They are about God—a God who comes and meets us. A God who draws us out of our predictable, secure, controlled lives and says, “Follow me.” Our current Coronavirus life is a threshold moment.
We believe God is perfect revealed in Jesus Christ. And Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but Jesus is also the One who dwells on the threshold between God and humanity. And he invites Abraham, and me, and you to meet him there on the threshold. And if we take him up on his offer, not just once but continually, we will never be the same. And if we do, we’ll discover that with Jesus everything is on the threshold, and we can kiss a predictable, secure, and controlled life goodbye, in place of an another life of risk and faith…and real life.
Over the next few days, I’d like to explore what it looks like to dwell on the threshold, to have a faith of leap. But for now, I simply want to ask you to pay attention. Pay attention to the threshold places and experiences in your life. What is it that makes your pulse race a little? Where is God throwing his arm around you, and looking you straight in the eye? Where does the situation you are living in today confront your need for control? And pay attention to that voice (you can hear it if you are still and honest enough) that is saying to you, even right now, “Follow me.”
Bob Jacobs is Pastor of Westminster Church, Rapid City. If you're interested in more of Bob's writings, check out his personal blog at www.brittlecrazyglass.wordpress.com.