Without a vision 

I suspected that completing solid Sabbath prep would be challenging when I was teaching an 8-hour Girl Scout class on a Saturday. And I was correct; it’s 8:16 pm, I smell like a happy campfire, and writing this only puts me halfway through my pre-Sabbath checklist. But Sabbath is made for us humans, not the other way around (Mark 2:27), so when I finish here I will wash off the ashes and DEET and call it a day. 

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” –Proverbs 29:18a, King James Version

This is the version of this verse that’s embedded in my brain, though its translation is quite different in the New Revised Standard Version, where I do my everyday Bible reading. I’m using the KJV because I’ve been mulling the modern concept of organizational vision. It appears to be affirmed here by the writer of Proverbs…and it’s probably a human enough truth that it would have been remarked upon millennia ago. It sprang to mind this week as I started kicking around some of my larger ideas. 

I love me some big ideas. I feel hummy-happy when I am in the early stages of a big idea: plenty for the brain to work out. I enjoy most planning for the same reason; I like to cast my mind ahead and draw maps of what is more likely or less likely to occur, following those paths as far as I can see. 

As the verse popped in my head, though, I dropped back maybe ten years ago. I was sitting in the annual staff offsite for my church. We were looking ahead together, because a shared picture of the future will (a) help a team work together more smoothly in the short term and (b) bring the organization toward that picture in the longer term. A good practice! And as part of looking ahead, we went around the circle answering the classic question, “Where do you see your ministry/yourself in five years?” Many worthy things were said, none of which I remember. 

What I remember? I remember being grateful I was more than half-way around the circle, because it bought me more time to think. I remember being just as blank at my turn as I was when the question was posed. I remember saying a more diplomatic version of, “Sorry. I got nothin’.”

Here’s what’s puzzling to me: I worked in that communications role for eight years. I had no vision for the role in all that time. Yet it was an important time. I am immeasurably blessed to have spent those particular eight years holding that particular position with those particular people. And I did good work; work I enjoyed doing well. I delivered excellent return on investment, too.

I now wonder whether I had no vision there for this reason: my visioning energy was already consumed by the one I was holding for A during this most intense period of her intense life. It was a pretty bare-bones vision: of an emotional healthy woman, one who follows through on what she sets out to do, one who solidly owns her loveable-ness and worth. She wasn’t able to hold onto that picture for herself, and I feared what might happen if that image fell to the ground.

Holding a vision for another can be very tiring. Especially if that other keeps trying to negate it.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Perhaps it doesn’t have to involve yourself, or even be agreed-to. Perhaps the vision itself is enough. 

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