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)
Avraham learns a glimpse of the future; marked by the sign of the covenant of circumcision.
Avraham stumbles in recoil, as though he were burned. The stumble is unique to this command – Avraham doesn’t fall over at any other time Hashem speaks to him.
Why had it never happened before?
R’ Chaim Soloveitchik explains that until a command is delivered, there is no counter-deficiency in not complying. But once he received such an instruction,he was defective, and literally could not stand in God’s presence in such a state.
R’ Shlomo Farhi explains that this cuts both ways.
The standard expected of all Jews is nothing less that absolute, perfect dedication and diligent moral consciousness. Yet the standard of absolute perfection is a long way away from anything less than that, and perhaps out of reach as well. It’s a big leap to make.
But improvements can be gradual and incremental. So long as a person is not ready to for more responsibility, it doesn’t count against them – it’s perfectly reasonable to not be ready.
But when the moment arrives that they are ready, yet they are content to stay put, the burden counts against them – וַיִּפֹּל אַבְרָם, עַל-פָּנָיו.
Always chase more responsibility, and demand a higher standard of yourself. Moral consciousness is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t run before you can walk. One step at a time is an effective strategy.