I asked God for vision this year. I asked for vision for myself, my children individually, for my husband and I together, and for all of us as a family. Not the kind of vision where we see Elvis Presley’s profile in our Cheerios, and not the kind of vision that many biblical figures experienced when visited by an angel and were given a message. The vision I refer to is something else, something driving within that I expected would lead me into a different place. Well, I’ve been given one and it has driven me somewhere, but not as I imagined.
Slowly, over the course of the year, pieces of this vision have come together that has helped me see what these visions are comprised of. Vision is sort of a scary word or at least a heavily marketed word, even in Christian circles. So on some level, perhaps it has just entered into my lexicon and felt like something I was supposed to have.
But no. As I thought deeper, there was a purpose behind my desire for vision. It’s just been very recently, however, that I’ve set my mind to the task of really thinking this concept of vision through, and why – really why – it feels like something I need to have, something that has lead me to a sort of cliff over the past several months since I asked for it, just waiting breathlessly for it to appear and set me afire……..to do what?
“’And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.’
And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.” ~ Zechariah’s words to his son, John
Luke 1:76-80 (NIV)
“Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.” Luke 5:10-11 (NIV)
I knew in a very practical sense why I desired vision. These past nine or so months have shown me two things about myself: I do not do well when overwhelmed with a lot of impending deadlines and external craziness going on in my schedule, even if they are deadlines for creative projects in which I am designed for. The other? I do not do well when there is nothing looming, no expectations placed on me, nothing on the horizon pushing me to create. I’ve experienced both extremes during these months, and I’m surprised. I already knew that I detested a harried life with no margin to exhale and observe and reflect. But I didn’t know how much I would struggle with a blank canvas, either. I need that margin for sure, but tailored, in smaller doses. If there is nothing external holding me accountable to create, I will create very little. I need something driving me.
The desire for vision came before these dichotomies of everyday existence played out, though. Something more intuitive drove me to ask for it, and over the past several weeks as pieces have come together and clarity arrives, I am beginning to see where this is all heading.
I thought of vision as an antidote for aimlessness, something that would define purpose and explain meaning. I think it does both, but it is shortsighted to believe that this is all vision is intended for. I equated vision with direction; that is, having a vision for who I was meant to be or what I was meant to do would help me to know what to do with myself, in both the major life decisions and the everyday, routine things that maybe need a shift or tweaking. And in a deeper way, I thought it meant I had landed on some other level of Christian maturity if I could identify this deeper thing driving me, as if cobwebs of doubt and stubborn questions about my worth would be swept away if I had this focused vision to align myself with. I also assumed having a vision would have both a magnetic and a vacuum effect on me, in that the things in life that weren’t part of this vision I would naturally feel desire to have sucked away and disposed of, easily of course, because I would be so magnetized to this sense of vision dawning in me that I would be blessed with the strength and determination to cut out anything that stood in contrast to living out of it.
It’s amazing how introspective people can be so amusingly naïve, too, isn’t it?
(I have a raving idealistic streak in me. At times I have been painfully sliced in pieces or humiliated by it, but I’ve learned to guard it as something precious, because it is often in the fluffy pink pillows and cookie-sweet idealistic dreaming of mine that the courage to aim for nothing but God’s best is forged. I dare not trifle with that in the temptation to move towards a safer feeling of dreary realism. He’s shown me…….it is the furnace room where my passion is stoked.)
So what is this all about? Well, I’m tired of feeling so aimless. And my longing for vision I suppose is my way of trying to get rid of the aimless feeling. I operate better when I have something concise to focus on, which brings in all the scattered scraps of myself and my life together into one unit, with a purpose guiding every move. The difference between Focused Jen and Aimless Jen is from the earth to the moon. And I can’t stand being Aimless Jen, although it’s frighteningly alarming how quickly she shows up, even in the middle of Focused Jen’s best work sometimes. I wanted Vision to kick Aimless Jen to the curb. Because when Aimless Jen is in the driver’s seat (and she always puts the car in park, of course), the feelings of unworthiness and unloveableness are exquisitely palpable. Too often I live to avoid them. And so for the past several months of not really feeling needed or used for much of anything that makes me me, maybe I’ve been hoping that this vision thing would end up being a new weapon in my arsenal in the battle against bad feelings.
But, as He always does, in ways that are Real but can never be fully described, when my eyes are opened, grace and love are poured out, and then I see. Vision is never about leading us to the land of feeling worthy.
Yet, as with most everything, in the middle of what gets skewed there lies something beautiful and true, as is the case with vision. The desire for vision was Spirit-led and intentional. There is a burden placed in the heart of His disciples, a burden for the world to be what it is was meant to be, to see others freed and transformed and alive in the love and grace of Jesus, and to be used as a tool somehow in bringing this divine renewal to the here and now. Vision, maybe then, is about bringing clarity to this burden. Vision fleshes out the longing to be spent.
What I’m understanding about vision is that it’s a lot more about growing in godly character than anything else. While vision isn’t about directing me to worthiness, it does offer with it the power to surmount the obstacles the flesh uses to try and thwart my path. Aimlessness is very real for me. It eats everything away in my life: time, energy, opportunity, and then leads me to profound sorrow over my lack of feeling like I’m accomplishing anything, anything fruitful for God’s kingdom. And so I do one of two things: determine to overcome my aimlessness and find something constructive to do. Or I slip into a vegetative state and watch Seinfeld reruns and play pyramid solitaire on my kindle, all the while browbeating myself for not having my act together. (This is different than resting after focused work…..)
So I decide something must change; there must be a compass to look to. Something that will give me direction, because I don’t know where to go, and I have an overwhelming sense that I’m supposed to be going somewhere. And then the next struggle starts: either I can sense no place I am meant to head towards, or I am overwhelmed with so many potential good, godly ideas and I just can’t fathom which one I should claim because they all, in this case, are things I want to choose.
When we desire vision, we expect the vision to be all-encompassing in that it gathers all of everything into it. If you look at the vision the angel gave to Zechariah for his son, John (the Baptist), it is pretty specific. This is why he is here and this is what he will do. Everything else gets in line accordingly. All of life is then adjusted to circle the vision because there is a purpose assigned within the vision. I wanted a vision like that. I wanted to know precisely what I am here to do and to be and how it should come about. It feels to me as if aimlessness would no longer play into my life and the possibilities around me would clearly fall into place as necessities, options, or waste, and then in a nice and tidy fashion, a beautifully clean and powerful story would emerge from my life. She heard this and so she followed. She was given the game plan. All she had to do was put herself in the best possible position to execute. So why is it so hard to do this without being given the game plan?
I have no doubt whatsoever that there are (and were) specific people God gives specific instruction to at specific times and with specific purpose. I’ve been one before. I felt clearly I was to attend a specific writing conference, go to a specific church, pray for a specific person. But in the grand experience of vision, I don’t believe that’s the norm. I think for many of us, He drops breadcrumbs. He whispers. He plants an idea. He shines a small light. He does enough to beckon our curiosity or expose a wound or prick a joy. He reveals something that isn’t as it should be and lets our questioning grow into discomfort into unsettledness into agitation into dogged determination to give everything to remedy it. And then perhaps He stays silent for awhile as we struggle to draw near and hear more. He makes it impossible for us to create a formula, which without even realizing it, we desire so that we can simply turn on autopilot and not really need to desperately depend on drawing near to Him quite so much, since we’ve got a game plan and whatnot. When Jesus approached the disciples, they were invited to follow Him, and He would make them fishers of men. That was the vision they were given. That was what they had to go on. And that was enough that they pulled their boats ashore and left it all, without having a clue of what lay before them except for the fact that they would be with Him. That was enough.
So what is vision? I used to think vision acted as the red arrow on the compass, telling me where I needed to go (ultimately, I discovered, to feel worthy) and which step was next. Not anymore. I think vision might actually be more in line with preparing one’s hands to hold the compass, preparing one’s mind to read it, preparing one’s body to follow it, and preparing one’s heart to bear it. I’ve already found Worthiness. Maybe the compass is the love of God, which I am invited to cling to with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Maybe the arrow is Jesus Himself, guiding us through the burden, showing us how to be spent.
So my vision. It came together for me a couple of months ago, after getting a word here and there, a realization of a greater longing in me, a deeper observation of my gifting and inclinations, and a whole lot of waiting and refinement and worship and prayer. It is simply this: to be present to those who are searching for God’s hand in their lives. It is completely non-specific (as really, it is my belief this includes everyone, although I know many would disagree), yet I know there are specific people it is meant to be spent for, all the while it perfectly encompasses who I am and the burden I feel.
So what am I to do with this? Prayer, worship, refinement, and waiting, as the author of my soul uses everything in creation to point me towards clinging to the compass of His love that He has offered to me, and fix myself on the Arrow inside, who at the right time will show me when there’s a step to take, a person to be present to, and empower me with creative devotion.
“Follow Me.” This, I am confident, is His vision for you, too.