Sunday, April 05, 2009

Leaping Into Reality

I recall a wonderful scene in ‘Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade’ when Harrison Ford arrives at the crevice separating him from The Holy Grail. He had approached it with great speed and barely stops himself before falling into an abyss that appears to be deep enough to end in hell. His dilemma then: getting to the other side. Given the ingenuity and paraphernalia always available to Indy he seemed, at this moment, both stupefied and terrified. But then he remembered that little book – his dad’s notes, I believe – a collection of all the secrets and information known to mankind concerning the grail. And fumbling hastily through those pages he confronted something edifying and frightening: The Leap of Faith. 
Whether or not the remarkable Mr. Spielberg intended to portray a spiritual crisis in such a dramatic and perfect cinematic package will be left to the critics to decide. However, for a guy who has raced to and then stopped suddenly at this precipice many times in his life, I find this scene to be almost holy in its freakish accuracy. 
A leap of faith, to my knowledge, has no particular Biblical grounding. However, the definition of faith in the first verse of Hebrews 11 – the great treatise on Christian faith attributed to The Apostle Paul – is a likely marker. The King James Version of the scriptures – both maligned and beloved – contains an elegant translation of this verse: ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ But the phrase itself – ‘a leap of faith’ – is nowhere contained in the Bible (corrections welcomed and encouraged!) I suspect, however, that believers have confronted and discussed this unique intersection of the temporal and the eternal since humankind witnessed the first falling star or confronted their own fears and frailties.
The times I have examined my own teetering on this grand precipice I have determined that the issue that causes me to hesitate is control. Most of us, it seems, are built sturdily enough to take on all comers – in whatever form they confront us: emotional, physical, financial, intellectual. At least we think we are. The fact is that if you have yet to face a situation that you perceive has the power to take you under I doubt that you have fully invested yourself in this thing we call living. The moments that ‘drop us to our knees’ are the moments we stand above the abyss. How we respond, I believe, is the act of ‘leaping’ – or not. Leaping is the final act in an intellectual and spiritual process that reaches the conclusion: this is out of my hands, beyond my control and more than I can handle without the quick and eternal assistance of ‘Things Not Seen.’ It is the act of relinquishing control and many of us are most unwilling to do that until pushed to absolute extremes.
But a leap of faith is not necessarily confined to a difficult or challenging moment in life. It may also come as a final act in the intellectual conclusion that we are incomplete, lacking, uncertain and longing for something beyond that which is readily available from both within and without ourselves. Quoting Paul again I refer to his Letter to The Philippians and his profound reference to ‘The peace that passes all understanding.’ If this kind of peace is something you have never desired I suspect you have stopped reading several paragraphs back. For those who are still with me I would point out this irony: a response to your spiritual urges includes the same components as facing life’s most difficult challenges: out of my hands, beyond my control and more than I can handle without the quick and eternal assistance of ‘Things Not Seen.’ We are unable to think, drink, smoke, medicate, earn, succeed, rationalize, laugh, vacation, golf, analyze, eat or argue our way out of this human dilemma of longing. And that is the essence, I suppose, of St. Augustine’s mighty prayer that includes this statement: ‘You have created us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in you.’
So, this leap is a conscious choice to relinquish control; it is to place the future direction and development of our lives and souls into the hands of The Other – The One Unseen. This is illogical, irrational and against every fiber of self. But it is, in fact, the highway to freedom, purpose and reality. Will we land on our feet? Will we, like Indiana Jones, stand solidly on the other side? Can we conjure the courage necessary to let go? Turn back for a moment and gaze down the roads that led you to this place of decision. Do you wish to put yourself back into the hands of Pharaoh or cross the treacherous waters of The Jordan? 
See you on the other side. 


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