With a Vision
What is vision?
So many times I've heard people quote the phrase from the King James Version of Proverbs, that, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (29:18). I've nodded with everyone around me, thinking, "Yes, of course. If we don't know where we're going, we get stuck in the present. And when the world is changing around you and you yourself are growing up and growing old, to get stuck in the present is to actually decline. Change is the only constant."
I remember that line from the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
Not in vain the distance beacons.
Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin forever down the ringing grooves of change.
That all made sense of why that passage, that "Where there is no vision, the people perish," seems so important. But I never really thought about what makes vision vision, as opposed to simply plan, or strategy, or blueprint, or process. What makes vision vision?
Let me take a jab at that, with three thoughts.
1. Vision is fiercely idealistic
- Vision puts us into a larger story than one shaped by our own tastes or preferences. In fact, we sometimes know that it's vision and not something else because it actually pushes us to be open to things we aren't usually open to. It's beyond what's comfortable, or familiar, or predictable. But it's not chaos for that reason; it's vision.
- Vision invites us to sacrifice, not only preferences or our resources or our control, but also our comfort, our time, and sometimes our very selves for possibilities that a more reasonable calculation would suggest we abandon.
- Vision doesn't first ask what's doable with what we have or possible for whomever we're with. It first asks what's the best use of what we have and what's important about who we are and who we're with—for the sake of a possibility we're called to by a loving voice beyond us.
2. Vision is fiercely realistic
- Vision works itself out in open study and engagement with what is, with facts in the culture, trends in the church, realities in our own selves and families. Vision isn't afraid of telling the truth, because it knows that the truth of what is pales in the face of the truth of what God desires. And so while seeing what is, vision sees more.
- Vision is not afraid of the fact that it's pursued by broken people with feet of clay—just like you and me. That's okay. Vision can take that, and adjust to it, and keep us keeping on toward that higher calling.
- Vision is aware that for many of us, change isn't easy. We have a tribal instinct to stay put, circle the wagons, and protect what we have when things are unsettling our changing around us. Vision keeps leaders able to listen to that with care, but still lead.
3. Vision is fiercely hopeful
- Beyond simply being wishful thinking, vision trusts the future to be a place of opportunity and not just doom. That's its realism!
- Vision depends on and so looks for energy that the folks pursuing it might not have inside themselves. This means that vision includes God.
- Vision is open to surprise.
Now . . . the great challenge is how to live with vision—as me, as a parent, as a pastor, as a leader, as a follower, as someone who wants to be open to vision. But it's the gift we're given, and the exciting task. For "where there is no vision, the people perish."