When Jan and I lived in Berlin, Germany we loved walking in the
city parks. The park system in Berlin
was unlike any I had ever seen. These
parks were not the traditional square piece of land with grass and a few trees
– the parks in Berlin ran through most of the city. Berlin has more land dedicated to parks than
most cities in the world.
One of our favorite walks was to leave our apartment on Am
Pfarracker Strasse and walk east to the Otto Lilienthal Memorial. This was a
beautiful park with a reflecting pool and a small man-made hill. Jan and I would use the stairs leading to the
top of the hill as a workout. The hill was only about 50 feet tall. The hill was named ” Fliegeberg” (Mount Flight).
Atop the hill is a memorial to Otto Lilienthal. He was called, “The Glider
King”. Otto was a pioneer of manned flight who would leap off the small hill he
constructed to test his gliders. Otto made over 2,000 flights. Many of these flights were from that small
hill in the park bearing his name. Otto
finally died in a glider crash in 1896 and in his 2,000 plus flights logged a
total of 5 hours of flight. The math shows these 2,000 flights were each only a
few seconds in duration.
As I think of Otto he gives me an example of someone who had
a dream, but needed to build a hill to jump from in order to make his dream a
reality. The landscape in Berlin
surrounding Otto’s memorial is flat. The
hill is an oddity – like a Noah’s Ark in a culture without rain or floods. Otto saw something in a flightless world that
required creating a platform from which his dream could be launched.
Faith is something that requires us to construct a place
where we will take a leap. Moses led Israel into an opened sea with walls of
water on both sides of his dry path. The priests of Israel stepped out over the
waters of the Jordan at flood stage before the waters actually parted. Peter
told the beggar that he had no money to give him, but stand up and be healed.
Paul shook off a serpent and lived to tell the tale. The Word of God is filled with people who
walked by faith. Many of them did not
arrive at these places of faith without some season of preparation before they
The exercise of our faith may require, like Otto Lilienthal,
that we haul wheelbarrow loads of dirt into a field of obedience and begin
building a mountain to jump from. Imagine what Otto’s neighbors thought? At that time no one believed a human could
fly. There is a preparation in our lives that makes us ready to take a leap of
faith. While we build our hill, God builds us.
This preparation for flight may require a season of hauling dirt
in a sweaty and gritty form of daily obedience until the right circumstances
present themselves – until our mound of obedience is tall enough to sustain our
leap of faith.
I can remember those many times that I would walk up the
Otto Lilienthal Memorial steps and think about his accomplishments. My thoughts
were always on the event of his flight and not the many months it took him to add
dirt to a flat field to build his hill of flight.
There are acts of faith waiting for our leap of faith that
are on the other side of what can be weeks, months, or even years of faithfully
hauling spiritual dirt in preparation for flight. Without the hill we would have no launching
point for our faith.
I can only imagine what Otto felt that first time he jumped
off his hill. He must have felt all the
dirt hauling was worth it. In fact, I’m
sure the hill he built, and all the sweat and struggle he endured, was not
first and foremost on his mind the first time he broke the bonds of earth and
flew like a bird.