Stop Living By Sight

Great.  Now, in order to be a successful, functional adult, I have to have a “vision.”

That’s what they tell me anyway.  There are thousands of books being sold, articles being written, DVD sets being watched, and conferences being attended, hawking this “vision” thing.  It goes by other names too.  If you’re in the corporate world, they might call it a “five year plan.”  If you’re in more Christian circles, they might call it God’s “calling” or “purpose” for your life.  Other people might call it a “life plan.”  And a lot of people are calling it a “vision.”

And for a near-sighted, detail-oriented guy like me, having a life plan, calling or vision is extremely difficult.  I can’t see five years into the future.  I barely can see into this afternoon.  I don’t have a “vision.”

So, what hope is there for those of us who can’t seem to catch a vision for life?

What Was Your “Vision” In Third Grade?

Kids don’t understand adult-speak, so I don’t ask third graders what their “vision” for their future is.  I ask them what they want to do when they grow up.

Overall, most kids’ life plans are pretty ridiculous.  Kids want to be astronauts and professional ball players.  Kids say these things because, as I lovingly put it, kids are naive.  They don’t know anything.  Most of them don’t know what they are doing in ten minutes.

And most adults don’t really know either.  We keep a day planner, but it’s just a guess.

In the same way, I can set out a “vision” for kids to follow for the next hour.  (Teachers usually call this “directions,” but no popular leader wants to sound like a schoolmarm.)  But no child really knows where that first mark they make on the paper is going to take them.  A finished project has all kinds of unintended surprises.

That’s just it.  A vision is just an idealized version of the future.  Your vision is never going to be crystal clear.  The only vision that’s 20/20 is hindsight.

Is Life a Formula?

Let’s clear this up right now.

The people who don’t want you to believe that are trying to sell you a formula.  If you believe that what they are selling is absolutely necessary, then of course you are going to buy it.  You might feel inspired for a while.  But no book or conference or blog post can deliver to you a clear cut path to your future.

Sometimes, we get so caught up on finding a “vision” for ourselves that we try to put everything on hold until we can get it sorted out.  We want to have a clear picture of the future, and then get “laser focused” on it.  Vision, plan, execute.  Easy.  Right?

Don’t Live By Sight

You don’t have to wait for a “vision,” a “life plan,” or a clearly directed “calling” to get started.  You don’t have to sit there, motionless, waiting for lightning to strike.

In fact, waiting for a “vision” can waste a lot of time.  You don’t have to live your whole life by sight.  Sometimes, you can take a step of faith and just start moving.

Just make a mark on the paper, and see where it goes.  Work on the little details.  What’s one detail of your life that needs addressing?  Work on it.  Don’t worry about the big picture.  Something else is bound to come along while you’re working.  Eventually, the details will start to become a cohesive whole.  You’ll waste a lot less time (and a lot less money) paying people to help you find the un-findable.

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What are you trying to do?  Are you taking it day by day, trying to work out the details, or do you have a big picture plan?  How’s that working out for you?

[photo: Ashley Santiago]

  • Kris Overtoom

    Awesome again.

    I used to be a big planner. I still try to be. However, several years ago, God challenged me in my homeschooling to take it day by day. I had a general plan of what I wanted to teach, but He didn’t want me to work it out to the nth detail, but rely on Him. I think that was our best year ever.

    • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt @ The Church of No People

      I’ve tried to be a super planner. It just cripples you when the plan goes off the rails! :)

      • Kris Overtoom

        Yes. Plus it puts the plan in control rather than God. And as an added bonus, it becomes more important than people. That is what I learned from my year off from planning. So the vision I received from that little lesson is that my primary job, both as a parent and as a teacher is to disciple my kids in God’s ways and to instill a discipline of learning and persistence and doing their best at any job.

        I don’t think having a vision is a bad thing as long as that vision is from God and you leave the details to Him. However, that is giving up total control and I am not there yet.

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  • mstracy

    love this. So true. We shouldn’t be fixed on the conventional steps to living or their measure of success. Just live each day fully and see what happens next. I started living like that and it’s amazing!

    • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt @ The Church of No People

      I’ve kind of trained myself (and it has been difficult) to live without expectations. It’s challenging, because we’re ingrained to have certain expectations for life, but it’s freeing just letting life happen as God’s providence dictates.

  • http://twitter.com/haguejason Jason Hague

    “A vision is just an idealized version of the future.” So, so true… It never works out exactly the way you intend. I don’t know about you, but I have “vision” and “passion” for things today that I never even considered five years ago. It makes me think God Himself might be dynamic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasonwert Jason Wert

    Good thoughts man. I’ve been waiting for a vision because the last decade plus has been filled with one massive failure after another that I assumed was God’s way of saying I wasn’t in His will. Now, I’m tired of being idle but I have no clear “vision” where to go. It’s a hard place to live.

    • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt @ The Church of No People

      Do you think you have been refined through your failures, or just defeated? If it’s the latter, then sadly, it sounds like failure has been a waste! I know we’ve talked about this together before Jason, but why have you failed? Was it really God’s doing? (Just shooting in the dark.)

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com Ed_Cyzewski

    This is where I out myself as a little bit of a vision hater. While I can totally see the value of vision and sometimes buy into it, the life of faith involves plenty of leaps into the unknown. And sometimes my vision can conflict with God’s plan for my life. Vision can be a fancy way of saying my expectations, and put that way, a vision can get in the way.

    I’m conflicted. I want to hear God’s direction for my life and to actively imagine the future. That sounds great. If that’s vision, it could be a good thing. The problem is that vision can become an idol or a barrier to hearing God’s calling. A vision that trumps discernment strikes me as problematic. Then again, sometimes God gives us a vision and we need to just hang on for dear life as we pursue it!

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    Nice one, Matt!

    Exactly! Step out in faith…and live. You have been by Christ from the navel gazing, worrying about doing the wrong thing, tentative cautious life.

    When you mess up you are forgiven. But the life of freedom is meant for something. For the neighbor, wherever possible for sinners such as we are.

    Thanks, Matt.

  • http://www.ramblingbarba.com Ken Hagerman

    Hey Matt, it seems recently making a plan is the preamble to so steamy pile that causes a course change. Funny though that course change usually ends in a place we really are excited about in the long run. Good post.

    • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt @ The Church of No People

      Isn’t it funny how it works out that way? There are so many times someone talks about their amazing life story, there’s always a significant part they say they “could not have planned.”

  • http://InkyJazz.com/ Bridget

    Sometimes God gives us “vision” or calling along the way (Abram, Joseph, and David, for example). I’m not sure why he does this, except maybe to grow our faith.

    The last thing we need to do is take that vision and run with it (see above examples for how not to respond to vision) . We don’t begin to have what it takes to fulfill God’s vision, and we don’t have the whole picture — until after the fact, as you said. So whether or not we have “the vision,” it’s still a day to day walk of faith and obedience.

    For these different men of God, the common vision was God as faithful and trustworthy, no matter what it looks like. But they didn’t have that until they learned to trust God to be their vision keeper.

    • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt @ The Church of No People

      Well said, Bridget!

  • http://thepaperskies.com David Helms

    Matt, I dig you brother, I really do.

    Unfortunately this is one of my problems. Unambitious they said. Product of the 90′s slacker movement says I. My proclivity is to float, meander, see what the day brings me. No plan, just move.

    And now I’m coming to the conclusion that unless I have goal a “vision”, something to shoot for-whatever you call it, I will only float. Survival mode…and my soul dies just a little more.

    • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt @ The Church of No People

      Okay, so you and I are coming from different sides of it. I’m a classic over-planner who struggles with frustrated ambitions. You “float” as it were. So work on getting a plan or vision, with the understanding that it’s always going to have unintended forces working on it that will require plans to change and visions to adapt.

      I think what I’d like to point out is that it’s just as easy for over-planners to get stuck and float while we struggle to have every detail pre-planned.

      • http://thepaperskies.com David Helms

        whoa…so you’re saying there’s a middle ground and we should shoot for balance! craaaaazy.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, I’m the sort of person who has always had a “vision” of some sort for most of my life. In elementary school my goal was to do well and get into a good high school (which happened). In high school my goal was to be a top-tier student and earn plenty of scholarships to get in a good computer science college. I didn’t get much scholarships despite having excellent grades but federal financial aid took care of me. Throughout this, I’ve had a “vision” of being a published author. Right now I’m working on a novel and my vision is to complete it.

    For at least a couple years, I’ve had a “vision” of being a Bible teacher. That’s actually come to fruition, as I have been able to teach the Word in two places at least once so far. I think this part of my vision could be mingled with what I feel my calling is. My “calling” has been rather fluid. At first I wanted to be a youth pastor. I also wished to be an evangelist. After a crisis of faith last year, my calling seems to have shifted away from youth pastor to teacher/apologist. Recently thoughts of going to seminary have come up, and if I become serious about it, it could happen.

    • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt @ The Church of No People

      It sounds like your vision is balanced by your “fluid” calling, which is probably a good thing. Even adults with the best of intentions end up in multiple careers, and callings have expirations sometimes. :)

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  • http://twitter.com/paddlemama Kari King Dent

    My husband (who is a pastor) talked to another pastor a few years ago. This man had just taken a new post as senior pastor at a church that was in turmoil. He asked my husband, rather condescendingly, what his “plan for his ministry” was. My husband said, say whaaa? Well, maybe he was a little more eloquent than that. This pastor proceeded to tell my husband that he had a 25 year plan in place for his ministry. It’s been 5 years since that convo and I’m wondering if splitting that church, running off 90% of the congregation, and then abruptly leaving it was in that 25 year plan. If so, mission accomplished!