This analogy is not new. I don’t know who first came up with it, but the more I think about it, the more it works for me.
The analogy is this. You stand on one side of an immense chasm — think of the Grand Canyon at its widest point. On the other side is God (/ the divine / whatever you need to name it to keep going with this thought process / that missing piece of our soul humanity keeps looking for).
This is the human situation.
There is no way for you as a human to cross this chasm to God. He calls to you, says to trust in him and he will come get you instead.
This is grace.
But all along the bank’s edges are multitudes of people, yelling out their own messages, encouraging one another to jump into the chasm, pushing and shoving each other, maybe even killing each other. Amongst all this, it’s easy to lose sight of God on the other bank, to not be able to hear his voice over the din.
This is the World.
People are queuing up under various signs. One says Meditation, another says Effort. Off to the side is a scraggly line of just a few people under a sign that says Rest. Some of the people in the Effort line are throwing rocks at them.
One by one the people in line jump off the edge into the chasm, convinced by the charlatans hawking their methods that they can make it to the other side — with, of course, the help of Meditation or Effort, or some other tip or trick, all of which have their cost. Some people ignore the signs and just jump off on their own anyway, but most choose a method. Still others choose not to choose — they’ve been convinced to ignore their emptiness, the small cry that there must be more. They never jump, but when they die on the bank, their bodies are pushed over the edge anyway.
These are the World’s solutions to the problem of the chasm.
When you finally move up in line to the second position, you watch the person in front of you jump off. You watch him jump, then drop, and somehow you wonder what happened to him. Did he find some way after he jumped off? Did he sprout wings and fly? Maybe he floated down gently and then walked along the base of the chasm. Who knows?
This is blindness.
And then you jump, too.
And even if you were the best jumper ever to have lived, you don’t make it across the chasm.
This is impossible.
As you start falling, what do you think? You’re falling to your death. Do you call out to God? Do you contemplate how miserable your attempt to cross the chasm was? Or are you thinking that at least you made it further than that other person? And that, yeah, you’re falling to your death, but at least you look more stylish than that guy over there? If you jumped with your spouse, are you squabbling all the way down about who left the light on and who didn’t change out the toilet paper roll?
This is human pride.
Maybe you do look death in the face. If you call out to God, He will come. He will rescue you from your own foolishness.
He will set you gently back up on the bank, waiting to be carried across the chasm later, sat among those still in the World, those contemplating their own leaps. You might try to tell them you’ve tried it and there’s no way, they can’t make it, they shouldn’t go… and they will ignore you. They’ll think they’re different, that with just a little help, just a little more Effort, perhaps, they can make it on their own. They’ll think that you were just weak.
This is the life of a Christian who has accepted grace.
One by one you’ll watch the people cast themselves into the pit, truly believing that they’ll make it across to divinity without help, and all you’ll be able to do is hope and pray that in their fall, they suddenly see, cry out to God, and get set back on the bank or carried over the chasm.
But most of them won’t. All the way down to destruction — wind whistling, ground rushing toward them, they’ll think they did their best and that should be enough.
And this… this is an awful loss.
This is the worst of things you could witness, over and over, person after person, feeling each one acutely, until someday the chasm is crossed, and you finally leave the World behind…
This is mercy.
By World Wide Gifts [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D,
via Wikimedia Commons