I was watching Parenthood one night and became intrigued by a conflict between Jasmine and Crosby. During a couple’s counseling session, Jasmine complained about Crosby’s lack of vision for their life together.
Envisioning a certain type of future can have a transforming impact on couples, families, communities, and the world. Yet, I have often felt like I didn’t have a proper vision for my life. Should I have asked God for a vision? I didn’t know that I was supposed to do that — I figured he’d let me know if he had something in mind. Wasn’t following Jesus enough? Did I need to know everything (or anything) about what they might look like in terms of career, home decor, and family size?
I totally understood Jasmine’s concern about Crosby’s approach to life, especially compared to the steadiness of Dr. Joe, a renowned pediatrician and her much more attractive suitor in terms of financial and emotional stability. Crosby definitely needed to grow up and envision his role as husband and father in a more mature way.
Jasmine rightly wanted her potential husband to have realistic hopes and dreams, which could guide them as they built a life together based on their values, desires, and gifts. She couldn’t commit to a man who tended to wander without goals.
The idea of having this lack of vision in common with Crosby disturbed me. Was I really like Crosby, the easy-going, non-conforming guy who rarely considered how his actions affected others and never seemed to plan more than a few hours ahead? In some ways, yes.
Realize that a vision doesn’t have to be a physical imagining of the future
Yet Crosby did have a vision: he wanted to live his life with laughter and fun and love and spontaneity, not precisely like his more responsible-acting siblings and siblings-in-law. However, Crosby needed to find a steady source of income and settle into more predictable patterns suitable for his family.
Considering this point of view, I happily realized that I was wrong about my lack of vision. I did have a vision. It may not be as developed and fulfilled as possible but I did have a vision for various aspects of my life. And I lived by this vision, choosing paths, making decisions (big and small), and pursuing opportunities that resonated with my beliefs about how my life should be lived.
I just didn’t have a visual vision neatly packaged like an architect’s sketch of my dream house. No, my vision was more about how the people lived inside the house, not what the exterior, interior, or grounds looked like.
Still, I struggled with this concept. Could I accomplish anything without a fully fleshed out vision?
Finally, I realized that I did have a vision that made a difference.
For example, I had firm ideas about how members of my team should interact when we met to develop my church’s strategic plan. And, I have come to understand that not having a physical vision of what the church should look like in 5 or 10 years was beneficial to the planning process. My purpose was to get people to openly discuss concerns yet keep a positive outlook so that we could reach decisions in a way that honored God and respected others in our immediate and wider community.
I had developed a strong sense of how people could interact in a small group setting in order to bond together and grow spiritually. My vision involved people feeling safe, loved, encouraged, and supported yet challenged. In group discussions, I wanted us to be honest about doubts and questions, unafraid to admit lack of understanding, and willing to talk about the gap between our trust and desire to trust. I realized that I needed to either set the tone for these discussions or go along with them when they started heading in that direction. This vision of authentic dialogue has helped me to make connections with people.
Expand your knowledge and know yourself to get a vision for your life
There may be formulas on how to get a vision. For example, I heard someone say he prayed for God to give him a vision, next he received the vision, and then the vision was fulfilled (after many years and tons of work). That’s great if that happens to you.
Prayer can lead to receiving a very specific vision. But for me, the path has been different. I’ll share with you how I have developed and understood my vision:
The more I can experience firsthand, the more my mind is open to new possibilities and different ways of doing things. Experiences can help me realistically evaluate my vision and get ideas for its practical implementation.
The more I read, the better I can have an understanding of the possibilities for my life. Reading about the journeys and successes of other people inspires me, revealing how a vision is shaped and executed. I can also learn how to deal with uncertainty and setbacks in ways that demonstrate respect for reality but still allow me to plan for and achieve a different future.
Reading gives me experiences without requiring me to take the time, expend the energy, and spend the money involved to have these experiences.
Ask yourself, what do I perceive, feel, think, etc. that no one else does?
My vision should be unique to me, not one handed to me from my parents, friends, advertising messages, romantic movies, etc. that depict a certain type of life. To that end, I can consider how my God-given insights and talents influence my life’s work.
I must remind myself not to think less of myself if my vision doesn’t seem world changing. I don’t want to rule out that my vision could change the world. But my focus should be on understanding what God is calling me to do and acting on that vision. God is the one who changes the world through relationships with people like me — in ways that I may not fully grasp.
Give yourself credit for having vision and acting on that vision
Consider what’s been accomplished so far with the vision that’s been received. You (or I) may have created a home life, neighborhood group, volunteer organization, or work-related group that required sensing an opportunity and seeing a new possibility that no one else thought of or bothered to act on.
Now, go deeper. What else does your vision compel you to do?
When you discern the next steps, you’ll begin to get the vision that you have been searching for.
Do you have a vision for your life? How did that vision come about? Are you still struggling to define your vision?