We were on the last rope of the zipline course in Costa Rica. We had planned this trip for months and when the day came, the adventure began with an aerial tram that took us through the rainforest before we were harnessed and attached to a cable. We were taken to a perilous platform on a tree about 100 feet above the ground where we dutifully waited our turn. The first 8 ropes were exhilarating as we experienced a birds eye view of the rainforest. And then on the last rope, I failed to follow the instructions of how to properly grip the cable line and that is when the trouble began. I lost momentum and thus my cable stopped dead in the middle of the cable line. I was stuck and as I hovered over the rainforest the fun was replaced by fear. The hand gestures of the folks on the other side trying to remind me of what to do was difficult for me to comprehend since I was swept over by fright. When I stopped looking behind me and instead steadied my gaze forward I saw my husband. At first I saw him coming down pretty fast down the line and for an instant the thought crossed my mind that we would crash. Except he ultimately slowed down and my fear and dreadful expectation quickly changed to hope and relief as deep down, I knew he would know what to do. Talk about seeing your spouse as a hero! He hauled me to the platform and to safety.
While fear crippled my ability to focus and understand the instructions to get out of the jam I had gotten into, trust gave me hope and it got me through. As we consider what makes a perfect vision, it would make sense to first diagnose the conditions that blur our vision. The blemishes and imperfections that impede us from seeing clearly are often powerful agents that limit our understanding and comprehension. There are many distractions and interruptions that keep us from looking up and keep us away from the focal point. During our adventure, insecurity took over and that gave a foothold for fear to get a grip on me. Similarly, when we let doubts and disappointments hover over us, our progress is halted. Forgetting and fearing are two players that blur our vision.
We are fearful
Fear is a powerful emotion that can take hold of us. There are so many fears such as: fear of rejection, fear of not being valued or recognized, fear of conflict. Jia Jiang in his book Rejection Proof shares his story of shying away from his dream of entrepreneurship because of his fear of rejection. After a push from his wife, he quits the security of an established career, a 6 figure income, and pursues his dream. Upon notice of being denied by the first investor he sought, the unbearable pain felt led him to recognize that unless he harnessed his fear of rejection, his outlook for succeeding was dismal. He thus decided to purposely seek out rejection to become stronger. The book narrates the lessons learned in his journey of being rejected 100 times. He begins by describing the overwhelming fear felt when he first asked a security guard at an office building to borrow $100. He recorded himself and in the video picked up how his terrified look, nervousness, and lack of confidence kept him from following up and answering the guard’s follow up question of “why”. Fear kept him from seeing the conversation through. When we are unaware of our fears, they can hold power over us as we are often persuaded by its grip to not change, to stay within the comforts of what we know. Fear can keep you from being mobilized to do what is needed to activate the vision before you. Jia Jiang became an expert on rejection. Through his experiences he evaluated, reflected, and came to understand the root of his fears. We can learn from Jia Jiang’s evaluative reflection. Instead of ignoring or denying, face the fear. Take a moment to understand why things hold you back and what these fears are about. Evaluate where these fears are coming from, how much of it is reasonable and how much of it is heightened by negative experiences you may need to heal from. If you don’t harness your fears, anxiety can easily take over your life and keep you from seeing clearly.
Have you read or heard the stories in the Old Testament of the Israelites who continuously forgot all the miraculous ways God had saved and restored them? In fact, the New International Version, cites the word “remember” 130 times in the Old Testament! It’s easy to read through those passages and quickly judge the Israelites forgetfulness and lack of gratitude. And yet we are just as plagued by the tendency to forget. In fact, psychologists talk about mood dependent memory. This means that we are more likely to recall the memories which fit our current mood. If you are angry at someone, happy memories most likely won’t come to mind. In an upset state, beautiful moments shared are forgotten. Take the story shared earlier about my husband. This is one of many treasured memories in our story that one would think would be the script that is permanently before us. NOT. What happens when I sleep poorly, am irritated at a disappointing situation before me, or simply upset at a decision we are at odds about? The memories of other disappointing situations come to mind, further adding to the tension of the current state. In those moments, I forget to be grateful, to be generous, to be thoughtful, to remember what is good and what was good. And if you are like me, forgetting means I can easily become bitter. And contempt, a destroyer of relationships, is just a few steps away. It is so important to remember. How can we remember when we are so bent on forgetting? We have to be intentional about remembering why we are on this journey. In the same way organizations draft a vision statement, I have found it valuable to draft a family vision statement. We have this printed on a book and visit it through the years. We talk about it, discuss how we can live this out practically, and strategize our goals and aspirations around it. To read more about how to create your own vision statement, click here.
Trust sharpens our vision
Forged through trust, fellowship and community enable us to create a pathway forward. Family Bridges’ vision statement, “Strong families for purpose driven children, leaders of their generation, committed to their communities” came into being in the context of community. Stakeholders, affiliates, board members, and staff all participated in a painstaking effort to bring it together. It includes a series of belief statements that provide a picture of how things would be for future generations if we see our mission through. But how were we able to work on this together?
A spirit of hospitality
For months, prior to our forging the statement, we met monthly and visited one another’s organizations across the city. We spent time listening to the work we were invested in and we collaborated on putting together programs and events, leveraging each other’s resources. In essence, we carried on a spirit of hospitality. We respect each other’s ideas, projects, and approaches and worked together to forge a path forward.
We held and continue to hold each other accountable in terms of the goals we aspire to reach. Trust is established when there is a history of reliability and dependability. Our partners and affiliates had shown up time and time again serving together with very limited resources. Similarly, I trusted my husband on the zipline because time and time again, he had been there. The covenant of commitment was a foundation to the trust that steadied our relationship over the years. And through trust, our relationship was strengthened through consistent experiences of being reliable and dependable.
In both examples shared in this blog, my marriage and Family Bridges, trust took time to build and it came about as all parties involved contributed, showed up, and delivered. What we have learned is that a vision is made stronger when it is forged in fellowship and when it is held onto by a process of accountability. Without others, a vision statement would only be words on a page. In my zipline example above, I looked up at my husband and his courage gave us both confidence to get through. In community, we hold each other up and carry each other through. A perfect vision for 2020 requires that we retire the fears that hold us back, remember the reasons we do what we do, and build together through a trusting relationship. As we trust one another, we can begin to hold each other accountable and see our future aspirations come to fruition.
I’d love to hear from you, what have you found that blurs or spurs your vision?