It’s that beautiful moment when you’ve been traveling for hours in the car when the sat-nav sings out the words you never thought you’d hear: “You have reached your destination”. It’s even more satisfying if your journey has been fraught with traffic updates, recalculating routes and the most annoying of commands, “turn around where possible”. Now I may well be dating myself with this thought but I’m actually sad we seem to have lost the fine art of map reading. The fact that these days we punch in a city and a street and off we go has deprived us of discovering the journey we’re actually on. We all want to hear, “You have reached your destination” but let’s be real; there’s always a journey that takes some time and on that journey we might experience highs and lows but they are all part of getting us to where we need to be.
As believers we will often consider the vision for our lives and even the vision for the area where we have influence. We might have said to ourselves:
“I want to make a difference at uni.”
“my vision is to lead in the church, I want to plant my own one day.”
or “I want to lead in culture, I can see myself getting into politics and shaping local government.”
or perhaps even “I feel like I’m supposed to lead in the area of business, I dream about owning a business in many nations.”
More often than not what is clear is the vision, the end destination, but so often what remains unclear is the journey that will get us there, and importantly the timing involved on that journey. Vision, timing and the journey are all huge factors to consider as we discover the assignment that God has placed on our lives.
“The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.“
– Proverbs 16:9
This verse sets such a firm foundation for considering the nature and timing of the journey we are on as we follow Jesus, because we become aware of the truth that whilst we might hatch the plan that ultimately the Lord is involved with where we put our feet. In the context of vision, that can look like running, walking, standing still, perhaps at times it might even look like a detour or even a backwards step but the assurance we can take is that at all times and in all seasons “the Lord establishes our steps“.
Perhaps one of the subtle pressures we find as leaders comes from the culture we find around us. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we have no idea how to wait for anything. Our current culture cares little about timing because we have more of an expectation of things “NOW” than the consideration of the question “When?”.
When my parents were growing up there was no concept of food ready in minutes. If they wanted to buy something, then the issue of how long it would take to save up for it was the pivotal question. And if they wanted to buy certain fruits or vegetables from the shop, then they would find the options open to them were actually just what was ‘in season’. The idea of timing and waiting was a very real concept because fast food, instant credit and flying your food in from other countries just wasn’t a possibility. I do think that this subtle cultural shift can effect us as leaders as often in our enthusiasm, passion and determination we fail to ask the question “when?” and dive into wanting to see everything “NOW”. The tragedy in this is that we fail to embrace God establishing our steps and we miss out on the journey which is the very thing that will get us to our destination. Quite often we end up despising and rejecting those seasons when it doesn’t work out like we had hoped.
I love the story of David in the Old Testament. Here was a guy in his teens who receives an incredible assignment from God through the most notable prophetic voice around; an assignment that would see a shepherd boy become a king. That is one big transformation and one incredible vision for a young man to carry! Now when you read the account in 1 Samuel 16 you don’t just see an encouraging word about one day David being king – you actually discover a coronation. There was oil involved and David got drenched.
Before God, David is anointed as king, but what is fascinating is that his next step is not actually into the palace to take up this position. David’s next season of live spans many years and sees him encounter some pretty bizarre situations, none of which seem to resemble the anointing that he is carrying as a king. If you take that journey between 1 Samuel 16 and 2 Samuel 2 you will find a journey of preparation that David goes through. Each encounter, obstacle, challenge and victory shapes the man and purpose that God had for him, from right back at the point when Samuel anoints him as king. Even when David had the opportunity to shortcut the journey by getting rid of Saul (the current king) he still held fast to the process and journey and to the steps that God had for him to walk.
One key lesson I’ve learnt in following Jesus is to embrace the journey; that the end destination of vision is rarely one step away and that there is purpose in the process. There are specific things that the Lord has for me to experience as I pursue vision that are there to strengthen me, lay a foundation, prepare me, encourage me, give me experience, to grow me in wisdom and so much more. My encouragement to you would be to see the time between capturing a vision and stepping into that vision as just as critical as the destination itself. There are things you will discover along that journey that you just won’t find in any other place. You won’t get it from a book, you won’t get it from a mentor, because the journey and timing is unique to you and defined by God. So lean in and enjoy the ride.