“The Development of Faith is Frightening.”
The scent of acacia pollen is bittersweet and strong in the early morning. That’s when they begin -- in the early morning.
Smoke rising from cooking fires snakes its way through thatched roofs and strikes at the dawn. It is the beginning of an African day, and they are turning boys into men.
Frightened fifteen and sixteen year olds, naked and shivering, smeared with mud, stand at attention. Today they are to become murenik (men/warriors), and join their Fathers on the distant side of an invisible bridge.
The chasm of transition from boyhood to manhood is intimidating. Young hearts approach the chasm's edge holding their breath and hoping for the courage to cross. Old hearts on the opposite bank pray that their sons will be brave.
A motiriot (initiated leader) instructs the boys, "Step where I step".
Caked mud dries and draws in the noonday sun, but the boys do not notice. They do not notice the crowd, the heat, the wild dove piping out her song, or the pounding in their hearts. Oblivious to embarassment, fatigue, thirst, or hunger they follow their motiriot as the hours advance under an oversized sky.
Eyes fixed, initiates follow their leader across the chasm of their inner doubts and fears, until, in the night, they unflinchingly brave the pain of circumcision and pass onto the side of their Fathers; greeting the morning as men.
There are spiritual passages in life-- situations and circumstances we face that shove us to the edge of dizzying decisions. Sometimes the edge drops with a nauseating steepness, and updrafts of doubt roar, "It held for them, but who can guarantee the bridge will hold for you!?” On the far bank, the Hebrews writer says we have a group of encouraging witnesses assuring us that God will lead safely through. They pray for our bravery.
Those mud-covered African boys know the secret to success. With riveted attention they march in the tracks of their motiriot. Ignoring the heat, the discomfort, the dangers they fix their attention on the steps of their teacher-- trusting him completely.
That's what faith is. Though faint with fear and dizzy with doubt, faith is releasing our life onto God's character -- following His lead, trusting Him completely.
Do you risk dismissal or demotion if you don’t follow an unethical directive at work? Do you fear being ‘paraded’ before your friends if you don't at least pretend to agree with their humanistic views? Might you loose the one you love if you obey God’s will for chastity? This is the precipice.
The depth of the chasm, the strength of the updrafts, nor the sway of the bridge really matter. The question is will you trust that God is able? That He is near? That He is good? That He is involved? The decision to trust-- regardless of consequence -- is what turns boys into men and it is what transforms belief (belonging even to demons) into faith (belonging only to disciples).
Times are different. Cultures are different. Customs are different, but the path is the same -- steep, treacherous. Faith is following Him through these frightening times of testing, these rites of passage. There is no other way to become God's man.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." Hebrews 12:2