Last week I mentioned that I have been re-reading Philip Yancey’s book Reaching for the Invisible God. I took it down from my shelf to look for a story that I thought I had read there. That is the bane of preachers: we read something and are certain we will remember it, but, years later, when we need to, we don’t. Now we have Google, but I learned to preach in an age when all we had were libraries.
As I looked again at Yancey’s book, I remembered not being impressed when I first read it. Now, for some reason, it has spoken to me in a much more powerful way. Yancey’s thoughts are not profound, or even original, but they seem to be what I need at this moment in my journey. For example, in his chapter entitled “Room for Doubt,” he writes:
In a famous allegorical dilemma, a fourteenth-century French monk told of a donkey who confronts two equally attractive, equally distant bales of hay. The animal stares, hesitates, stares some more, an eventually perishes because he has no logical justification for moving forward toward one bale or the other.
Without an element of risk, there is no faith. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote of Herman Melville, “He can neither believe nor be content in his disbelief.” Like the donkey torn between two bales, this middle ground may represent the greatest danger, because it removes passion in a person’s relationship with God. Faith becomes a kind of intellectual puzzle, which is never biblical faith.
Faith means striking out, with no clear end in sight and perhaps no clear view of the next step. It means following, trusting, holding out a hand to and invisible Guide. As Thomas Graham put it, faith is reason gone courageous–not the opposite of reason, to be sure, but something more than reason alone. A step always remains beyond the range of light.
Rev. Michael Piazza