All our work prepares us for moments in our lives when we can choose to act, to give, to love. Consider these words from the Mathnawi [IV, 2917-19]:
In battle, the cowardly
have chosen the means of retreat
out of fear for their lives,
while the courageous, also from fear for their lives,
have charged towards the ranks of the enemy.
Heroes are borne onward by their fear and pain;
from fear, too, the human being of weak spirit dies within.
And these words from Signs of the Unseen (Fihi ma fihi): Discourses of Rumi:
The fame of a certain lion had spread throughout the world. A certain man so wondered at this lion that he set out from afar for the jungle where the lion was in order to see it. When he reached the jungle, having endured hardship for a year and having traversed many leagues, he saw the lion at a distance and stopped, unable to go any farther. “You have come so far for love of this lion,” he was told, “and this lion has the peculiar characteristic of not harming anyone who approaches him bravely and pets him lovingly. The lion only grows angry at those who are afraid of him. He attacts those whom he suspects of harboring an evil opinion of him. Now that you have traveled for a year and come so close to the lion, why have you stopped? Step forward!” But the man did not have the courage to take even one step forward. “All those steps I took,” he said, “were easy. But now this one step I cannot take.”
What Umar meant by faith was that one step toward the lion in the lion’s presence. That one step is very rare — it pertains to only the elect and the chosen few. Indeed, this is what a step is; anything else is a mere footprint. Such faith comes only to the prophets, who have washed their hands of their lives.