At Lunch Club this month, I spoke about what faith is.
I had been wondering where Jeremiah found his resilience to keep going back to the people of Judah to tell them that they had turned their back on God – again – and bad things were going to happen – again – unless they turned back to Him – again!
And it brought me to thinking about FAITH. It can only have been the strongest, the most resilient, the most trusting faith that carried Jeremiah through.
But what is faith?
As many of you know, I wasn’t a Christian for many years of my life. In fact, I still have more years behind me as a non-Christian than years as a Christian. But going on an Alpha Course changed everything for me. And one of the things that is brilliant about Alpha is that they tell amazing stories to make complex ideas more simple. I wonder where they got that idea from?
One of the sessions was called ‘How can I have faith’ – and I am going to shamelessly plagiarise a story here that they use to illustrate faith.
The story is about a man called Charles Blondin.
He was a famous American tightrope walker and acrobat in the nineteenth century. He drew large crowds to watch him, particularly when he started crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope. His act began with a relatively simple crossing using a balancing pole – but his crossings became more and more complex and theatrical – and drew ever bigger crowds.
There is the story of an occasion when our royal family were in the US and went to watch him perform. He started with his simple crossing with the balancing pole. Then he crossed the tightrope on stilts, then blindfolded; next he stopped halfway to cook and eat an omelette. He then wheeled a wheelbarrow from one side to the other as the crowd cheered. He put a sack of potatoes into the wheelbarrow and wheeled that across. The crowd cheered louder.
Then he approached the royal party and asked the Duke of Newcastle, ‘Do you believe that I could take a man across the tightrope in this wheelbarrow?’
‘Yes, I do,’ said the Duke. ‘Hop in!’ replied Blondin. The crowd fell silent. The Duke of Newcastle would not accept his challenge.
It was then that Blondin posed the question of the crowd – “Who will get in the wheelbarrow?”
No one was willing to volunteer.
Eventually, an old woman stepped out of the crowd and climbed into the wheelbarrow. Blondin wheeled her all the way across and all the way back. The old woman was Blondin’s mum, the only person willing to put her life in his hands.
The story of Charles Blondin paints a real-life picture of what faith actually is. The crowd had watched his daring feats. They said they believed, but their actions proved they still thought it was all too risky.
Faith is trusting in God.
When I first heard this, it took my breath away – could I get in the wheelbarrow? What were the risks of getting in? And more importantly, what were the risks of not getting in?
Then and now, I chose the wheelbarrow and have literally never regretted that decision in the years since, though it changed my life in all sorts of ways I would not have imagined then.
What have you chosen? And what do you choose today?
[from Alison Franks]