For the better part of my life I’ve been nearsighted – physically nearsighted, that is. I noticed my long distance vision beginning to fade and blur while in high school; it’s especially bad at dusk or when I’m in a room with minimal light, and I might as well forget about trying to see when it’s dark. My corrective glasses are my lifeline to being able to function at night! I’ve noticed that if I don’t have my glasses during these times of low light, I focus entirely on what’s right in front of me to navigate, and I squint and strain to make out what’s in the distance. I can tell you it’s very uncomfortable, especially while driving to a new destination, and I never feel very safe along the way. I would just assume stay put until the light returns. I may have that luxury of picking another time to travel in the physical, but that rarely is the case in the spiritual. Spiritual nearsightedness acts much the same way as in the physical, and is a sure killer to the plans God wants to unlock through you here on earth.
There are going to be times when the future isn’t spelled out for us, where there won’t be any focused light to illuminate our paths. Because we have no way to see or predict the future, all of our time and effort is spent on the here and now. Many times this can lead to not moving forward at all in fear of taking a wrong turn or making a mistake. Of course this can include planning for the future financially, but what I’m speaking of goes far beyond just money into what God is calling us to do in order to show His love here on earth.
I recently watched a documentary called If You Build It about a young couple, a designer and an architect, who went into a struggling North Carolina community to teach students about their craft. With their motto of: Design. Build. Transform, they set out to take this group through a yearlong course that would eventually end in doing a large scale community project. The couple had received multiple grants for all the materials, but their salaries were to be paid by the school district. Several months into the project the funding was pulled, and the teachers were told that in order to continue the project they would have to pay their own way. This was our first glimpse at nearsightedness: A brand new project, unlike any before it, with an unpredictable outcome, led the district to resort to the familiar behavior of protecting their assets. In this case – their immediate bank account.
To the district’s surprise, the couple agreed to stay and complete the project without pay. The end result, that which the students chose and designed, was a new building for an indoor/outdoor farmers’ market. The excitement and buzz around the project gained a lot of support from the community and ended up being the catalyst for four new businesses starting with twelve combined employees. This was just what the struggling town needed to have new life breathed into it. Even though the project ended in a huge success, the district would not agree to pay the couple for their second year, and the future growth of the town was left in the hands of the community itself. It bears a striking resemblance to the slough of recent school levies turned down in our own community.
There is a price to pay now for the success of future generations. What is common amongst those stepping out to try something for the first time, is the willingness to put their immediate gain on the back burner and/or risk it altogether. Our young design couple risked their time, money, and reputation on a bunch of high school students, but the payoff was enormous and had ripples that will likely spread through the generations. The administrators on the other hand, risked nothing and collectively squashed a program that could have continued to resuscitate their community for years to come.
In a culture where we are hardly required to wait for anything and rewards are often immediate, it’s easy to understand why people are so nearsighted. Why stick your neck out for a future you might not be alive for? That’s the sentiment of many. After all, it is no small feat to begin a project where you may not be the benefactor, but it is essential to have people willing to do so in order to secure a better community in the future. I fear this time-tested mindset and work ethic is being lost with each coming generation.
There are not many people in the Bible that had quite the zeal for God as King David or who understood this farsighted approach to life. He longed to please and honor God in word and action by protecting the ark of the Lord and provide a dwelling place for it. The ark of the Lord is where God’s physical presence dwelt amongst men, and in David’s time, it was moved around or housed in a tent. David longed to see a permanent resting place for the ark and had already begun the process of relocating it when he received word that the work he had started would not be completed in his lifetime (2 Samuel 7). The actual building of the temple would be done by his son, Solomon. As Solomon began preparations he wrote:
“You know that because of the wars against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the name of the Lord his God until the Lord put his enemies under his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.’” 1 Kings 5:3-5
In this passage we see that David fought through a lot of adversity in order to pave the way for future generations to commune with God in a way he only dreamt of. David realized he would not be the one to enjoy the temple, but his vision went well beyond himself.
I often think of Jesus too; his ministry on earth only lasted about three years, yet his teachings continue to this day. Literally, everything he said and did was out of a vision for the future and not his personal gain. Before he ascended into heaven, his disciples were pleading with him to tell them when God was going to restore His Kingdom on earth and Jesus responded by saying it wasn’t for them to know the times or dates his Father had set. (Acts 1:7) In other words, just do what I’ve told you to do and stop focusing on yourself in this moment. He knew the disciples work was just the beginning of the early church movement, and they wouldn’t see a fraction of the effect they would have on future generations. I admonish you to do the same; be the first to do something no one else has done, not necessarily for yourself, but for those after to build upon.
When Christ came to earth, he accepted every limitation that comes along with being human. Believe it or not, he had no inherent supernatural powers except those given to him by his Father. The same goes for you and me. We all know that humans cannot walk on water, yet Christ stepped out, trusted his Father, and became the first ever to do so! What’s incredible is that Peter followed shortly after, which tells me that it doesn’t have to take long for someone to build upon a vision set by a courageous act. Jesus later went on to tell his disciples that they would continue to do even greater things than he did, building within them the principle of looking ahead (John 14:12).
Have you stepped out and started that thing that is going to change your family and community? Are you willing to take a risk on something you may never even see the end of? Have you stopped dreaming because you are sick of squinting in the dark, trying to see? It may be time to try on a pair of God’s corrective lenses that turn your focus on the near to the far, but don’t be surprised when you see more people in your future than just you.