Where are the prophets?
They had been in the Presence of God and they reported what they saw there. They were prophets, not scribes, for the scribe tells us what he has read, and the prophet tells what he has seen.
-A. W. Tozer “The Pursuit of God”
Last fall I took a backpacking trip with some close friends to hike Jack’s River. The trail winds through the Cohutta Wilderness, nestled in the Northwest corner of Georgia near the Tennessee border. It is a quintessential southern hike, cut through a gorge in the mountains and surrounded by old growth hemlocks. I’ve been wanting to hike this trail for years after hearing story after story from my friend Trey about his adventures there. Did I mention it has 42 river crossings in 16 miles? Plan for adventure (and bring a dry pair of socks).
We parked at the top of the mountain, donned our packs and headed into the wild. After a couple of hours we hit the river and made our way to Jacks River Falls. The upper falls feed into a pool before plummeting 80 feet to the river bed below. We stopped above the falls and set down our packs so we could rest and take in the rays of the sun, warming the cool October air.
It wasn’t long though, and my buddy Matt (firefighter, triathlete, slight adrenaline junky) started making his way to the pool between the falls. He looks back at me and Jeff with a wink in his eye and says, “you coming?” Of course he was headed to a cliff about 25 feet above the pool where he was planning to jump into the freezing cold waters below. So, me and Jeff saunter over and Matt jumps into the pool to swim across and up the bank to the cliff’s edge.
Standing on the bank, the decision was laid before me – was I going to take the plunge, or was I going to watch my friends dive into the icy waters and go back and talk about how crazy they were. Jeff and I looked at each other and the we dove in after Matt. We swam the 15 feet across the pool and came up out of the water, pink as a Thanksgiving ham, my skin burning from the cold. We scrambled up along the falls and then took our perch at the precipice. Last chance to turn around, final opportunity to swim safely back to shore… then Matt leapt off the edge and Jeff and I followed suit. The ice cold water took my breath away, my limbs tingled as I paddled over to the edge, my eyes wide and a huge grin on my face.
That day, I had a chance to do something wild and even a little risky. I was given the choice to step into adventure or to shrink back and watch others live it. I’m so glad I stepped into the story and didn’t watch from the sidelines.
So many of us spend our lives as scribes, sitting on the bench and just regurgitating what other people have said or recounting what other people have done. Tozer was on to something. Our world needs people who have stepped out into the deep water, people who have experienced heartache, and loss, and eruptive joy.
The world needs prophets – men and women who risk their reputation, their comfort, their name, for the sake of others, for the sake of telling a grander story. We need prophets who aren’t crafting pithy lines from their leather library chairs, but who are writing from prison cells, and neighborhood barbecues, and homeless shelters. We need prophets who shake us out of our hamster wheel lives and remind us of the darkness of our own hearts and the bright song that never stops singing, calling us out of that darkness and into a marvelous light.
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