Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest, professor, and author, came to more clearly understand the nature of faith through the Flying Rodleighs, a trapeze troupe from South Africa. Nouwen noticed that while everyone is fixated upon the flyer’s aerial acrobatics, they are missing the true star of the performance. The audience forgets that the flyer’s amazing act is only possible because he knows he will be safely caught. Everything depends upon the other trapeze artist ‒ the catcher. Nouwen wrote:
If we are to take risks, to be free, in the air, in life, we have to know there’s a catcher. We have to know that when we come down from it all, we’re going to be caught, we’re going to be safe. The great hero is the least visible. Trust the catcher.
Faith is the opposite of seeking control. Faith is willfully surrendering control and entrusting yourself into the hands of God. It is letting go and trusting that you will be caught. Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It is believing the promise that no matter what happens, God will not let you fall.
The assurance that we will be caught by God is what makes obeying Him possible, and without this assurance we will see many of Jesus’ commands as either impossible or irresponsible. Consider a few of His instructions from The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Do not fight back, forgive everyone, do not judge, do not worry, give to whoever asks you, pray for and love your enemies. From the world’s perspective these are risky, even foolish teachings to follow. That may explain why so few people, including Christians, seem to take them seriously. Unlimited forgiveness, generosity and love are not how to protect yourself or how get ahead in a dangerous world. In fact, Jesus lived this way and it landed him on a Roman cross.
But Jesus’ life of obedience to God proves Henri Nouwen’s point about trusting the Catcher. The world did the worst thing possible to Jesus, and His heavenly Father still caught Him. Jesus was not abandoned to the grave, but God raised Him up and “bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). Safety is the prerequisite of obedience, including obeying Jesus’ call to be generous.
Reflect: When was the last time you had the opportunity to act generously but declined? Can you identify what fear held you back? If you were certain God would “catch” you, how would you have acted differently?
(Excerpt from Whole-Life Generosity Devotional, used with permission from GenerousChurch).