Leap of Faith


My son and I took my 10-year-old grandson zip-lining last week.  Ben tends to be a bit of a scaredy-cat and we were surprised that he readily agreed to go along with us.  He did great at climbing the first rope ladder and walking across a bridge that swayed between the trees.  But the first time he had to step off a platform into thin air and rely on his tethers to keep him from plummeting to the ground, he froze.  He wanted to do it, he almost did it, and then he stepped back – 7 or 8 times.  It took about 10 minutes of reassurance from his grandmother, his uncle, the guide on the ground and they very patient people waiting behind us before he stepped to the edge, closed his eyes, leaned forward……and finally let go.

For some people, I think faith is like that.  They want to believe.  Many of their friends are believers.  But they hold back.  Saint Augustine’s experience was like that.  Disillusioned with both Manicheism and Platonism, he had slowly become attracted to Christianity.  His mother and many of his close friends urged him to accept Christ.  He had personal access to some of the greatest minds of the early Christian world, such as Simplicianus and Ambrose, and was enlightened by their thinking. Like Ben on that wooden platform in the trees, he was intellectually convinced that he should take the step, and he had caring people around him who urged him on, yet he hesitated.

Augustine movingly describes his conversion moment in Book 8 of his Confessions.  Sitting in a garden, he felt moved to open his Bible and, reading the first verse his eyes fell on, he writes, “by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”

Just as Ben wanted a guarantee that he wouldn’t fall, I think Augustine was hoping for certain intellectual proof.  I think we’d all like that.  But that is called knowledge, not faith.  Faith paradoxically requires a surrender of both doubt and certainty.  Faith ultimately asks us to take a leap, just like the leap that Ben had to take up in the trees.

As you can probably guess, once Ben stepped off that first platform, his fears “vanished away” just like Saint Augustine’s doubt, and we spent a wonderful day swinging through the trees.

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