Avraham and Hashem spoke many times. We find that after the instruction to leave his birthplace, something happens that never happened before:
וַיִּפֹּל אַבְרָם, עַל-פָּנָיו; וַיְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ אֱלֹהִים, לֵאמֹר – Avraham fell on his face, and God spoke to him. (17:3)
Hashem tells him what truly lies ahead for Avraham, and tells him that the symbol of the covenant will be the mitzva of circumcision.
Avraham falls over, as if he is recoiling, as though he were burned. This is unique to this command – Avraham doesn’t fall over at any other time Hashem speaks to him. So what changed now, that it never happened before?
R’ Chaim Soloveitchik explains that until the command to circumcise was delivered, the fact he hadn’t done it yet didn’t render him ערל – the term used for an uncircumcised person. The beginning of the communication requiring it was when it was expected – it suddenly became a deficiency, and literally could not stand God’s presence in this state.
R’ Shlomo Farhi explains that this rubs both ways.
What is expected of all Jews is nothing less that absolute, perfect dedication and diligent mitzva performance. But everything is a long way away from anything less that that, so improvements can be gradual. So long as a person is not ready to take on more, the fact they haven’t yet done so is no problem at all – it’s perfectly reasonable in fact!
But equally, the moment they are ready for more and are content to stay out, suddenly a new burden is cast upon them – וַיִּפֹּל אַבְרָם, עַל-פָּנָיו.
There’s nothing wrong with someone not ready for more. But sometimes more is expected, and the challenge must be taken.