This post has nothing to do with Lemurs…except that their leap is an incredible thing to behold. So faith leaps and lemur leaps have that in common. (I really just wanted to include one of our lemur pictures. So here you go!)
Speaking of faith leaps, I’ve been asking God questions that sound something like this: Why did you choose this elusive concept called “faith” as the mystical passageway through which we find you? We never met you, hugged you, or drank and danced with you at a wedding and yet you still want us to believe?! Why aren’t you just here with us now live in living color? You could speak the truth plainly and we could understand fully!
He obviously holds faith in incredibly high esteem as it is the only conduit through which grace flows freely. It seems like Jesus poured out oceans and oceans of grace, but if we don’t sort of blindly jump in and sink down into it, grace will remain merely a concept and not a powerful, life-changing reality. It becomes a beautiful painting of an ocean we admire on the wall rather than crystal clear, healing waters in which to splash and swim and explore. Grace, after all, is beautiful. And I really love to look at beautiful things. In fact, looking is just fine for most people. We can easily celebrate grace as a Divine piece of art, relegate it to a museum we visit once a year, and settle for all the printed copies that litter our church billboards and bulletins.
I’m beginning to realize Jesus requires faith NOT because he wants to give us another “to do” or another requirement to meet his standards. I believe Jesus said salvation came through faith because faith alone has the power to take the painting off the wall and invite us to jump through the frame and get soaking wet in the crystal clear refreshing waters. Having faith is like having your own personal portal leading to an unseen reality that’s deeper and more true than what we could ever imagine standing in the museum. Faith doesn’t make God real. Faith makes God real to us – and he knew in this crazy world we would desperately need to know how to access and live in His reality.
I can’t help asking another “why” question. Why is it hidden? Why can’t it just be plain to see so everyone can participate. Why would it please him to hide things? Good things? Boo! But then it occurs to me that he’s not really playing hide and seek as much as our independence hides Reality while our dependence seeks it. Our pride ironically darkens our vision while our humility brings light. Our corrupted selves – with faith only in the seen realities – are blind, but our pure selves – with faith in the unseen – can see. Luke 10:21 says He hides these things from those who think themselves wise and clever and instead reveals them to little children.
So he requires faith, yes! But not because it’s part of some system he arbitrarily decided we should live under. He requires faith because without it we can’t see God. Without it we can’t participate in the deeper Reality of this life. Many people choose to live only in the seen reality. They are fine acknowledging their mind, their will and their emotions but get squeamish when you start talking about the fact they have a soul and spirit. They’ve never chosen to acknowledge it because it seems either insane (Only those people who’ve lost their minds can find their souls!), illogical (I prefer my mind to do all the interpreting of the universe, thank you!), impractical (I think, I feel, I act…don’t have much time for anything else. Wouldn’t know where to start if I did!), or indeterminable (There is no proof. I have to have proof. If I can’t know for sure, forget it.) I get it. I’ve thought all of those i-words about faith before. But it might also be worth considering that it illuminates a darkened yet very present reality.
So what did Madagascar do for me and how did it start to answer my question about faith? Well we didn’t start with Madagascar. We started small. God began pushing me like a mama bird pushes her babies out of the nest. He starts pushing when he wants us to fly. In plain terms, he asked me to say yes even when I didn’t understand, to listen when I wanted to talk, and act even when I wanted to stall and perhaps the hardest, to remain still and wait when I wanted to use my own strength and wisdom to solve problems in my own timing.
He asked me to go to Madagascar and help a group of abused and forsaken young women learn the jewelry trade. He asked me to simply show up without an elaborate “plan for success.” He asked me to wait for his solutions as day after day brought more and more confusion and cultural barriers. He asked me to rely on his strength as I lay sick and weak suffering from yet another ulcerative colitis attack, wondering how on earth I would ever be able to create a sustainable plan to help these women with no energy and time running out! He asked me to lean on Him to strengthen my left brain (a tall order!) in order to create reliable systems and manageable goals. He asked me not to rely on my Malagasy translators I thought I was so dependent on to communicate my message, but instead to rely on Him as the author of all languages and the keeper of all cultures. In short, can I just say that absolutely nothing about this mission was under my “control.” None of it made a lot of practical sense. There was nothing predictable or safe about it and absolutely zero guarantees for “success.” Thankfully, He freed me from needing to meet my own measureable goals and to simply show up and jump in and let his current take me to his shoreline. He gave me the faith I needed and the opportunity to practice it.
This opportunity has perhaps been one of his most valuable gifts to me yet. It was his way of saying, “Ansley, come participate in the unseen real. You want to see eternity so badly, so here you go! Faith is eternity in the flesh.”
It is utterly impractical to conduct business across the ocean, across cultures, across languages – might as well be across eternity! Well this here is the thing about faith. That leap literally does cross eternity. Eternity isn’t just later after we die. It’s now. It’s the realm that faith allows us to live among and within. So I took a giant leap of faith over two oceans and landed in Antananarivo, Madagascar at a girls school for troubled, abused and impoverished girls. And though it made no logical sense, it was a small part of an eternal plan to multiply God’s kingdom of love and life and hope on the small world of ours. When all of us take our own respective faith leaps across our own respective oceans, the ripple effect quickly covers our whole earth with a greater and deeper reality – a reality that still remains unseen in the physical sense but is nevertheless unmistakable to the soul.
Madagascar may be my greatest faith leap yet simply because I can’t see further than the next little step ahead of me. I have no idea how I am going to continue the work with these girls. I don’t know how to sustain this vision. I have many fears of letting these girls down – beautiful girls in desperate situations who are looking to this opportunity for work as their way out of hopelessness.
So I say “God, you started this and I’m depending on you to finish it. I have no answers…except I believe deeply that you are the Answer.” And when the answer speaks, I listen and pray I can bring it to those who can’t find one. And when I land in my own darkness and my ears are filled with screams of doubt, I pray one of you will be listening with ears tuned into his whisper and will bring the answer right back to me. In this way we are one giant faith family fighting to remain in the real, to understand the unseen, to embrace the eternal.
Everyday in Madagascar felt like a giant lemur leap of faith. Every day presented more problems than solutions. Very quickly we realized we couldn’t make this plan come together just with our collective human wisdom and strategies. This would take a divine artist to make this beautiful. Faith allowed us to be a small part of the small beginnings of this masterpiece – not just simply admiring it on some fancy wall. Rather, he used our hands to glide the strokes on the canvas. Faith isn’t merely a requirement to live religiously…it’s an invitation to live a masterpiece. Faith is the portal, the gateway to a realm where his grace does in fact flow freely, filling any and every ocean we will ever cross.