Burden and Vision


This is Part 2 in my series on Familiarity. View my previous entry here.

There is a difference between an idea and a vision. Ideas come and go in the moment, but vision remains. Because of this, vision isn’t born in a moment, but by process. And I have found that the best visions have burdens behind them.

When you have a burden backing up your vision, it drives you. It wakes you up in the morning, and keeps you dreaming when you’re lying in bed at night. When you don’t have burden backing your vision, it’s easy to lay aside when things get hard. But when you’re truly burdened by something, it’s difficult to ignore. Vision doesn’t have to be your own—it can be imparted to you by someone else—but no one can give you their burden for something. That you must get on your own.

So how does familiarity play into all of this?

In my previous entry, I presented the idea that familiarity leads to an awareness of need, which leads to compassion, which leads to vision, which leads to action. For this entry, substitute the word “compassion” with “burden”.

Burdens don’t usually come when we’re shut up in a conference room or a cabin in the woods, searching for it. But it does help to have your mind clear, and those things can serve that purpose. Burdens come in the day-to-day grind of life—in ordinary and familiar places—as we bump up against a broken world where things have gone terribly wrong, far different than how God intended. And it’s in the middle of this brokenness that burdens are developed.

Once you’re burdened for something, once you’ve tapped into that cause burning inside of you, it’s far easier to get vision. The burden is the driving force, but the vision is what you do about it. The burden is your inward motivation to do something externally that helps to heal the brokenness of the world.

If you feel lost and confused, if you’re looking for a reason to get out of bed in the morning, if you’ve lost your vision and are seeking to regain it … just keep showing up to life. The greatest temptation when you’re in this place is to shut out the world, to retreat to just going through the motions of life. It’s a trap. There will be times when you get knocked down, but get up. Keep showing up. Be present. Because it’s there—often in the mundane—that your burden will develop. And out of that burden, vision will be born.


Names and Faces

This is Part 1 in my series on Familiarity.

When we hear words like familiarity, we often think of them strictly in their negative sense. We think about things like how Jesus couldn’t do any miracles in His hometown, because the people there were so familiar with Him that they couldn’t see anything divine coming out of Him. And it’s true: the closer we are to things, the less likely we are to see their beauty. In this sense, familiarity blinds us. But there is another side to familiarity that actually helps us to see.

Three weeks ago, I was with the youth outreach ministry I work with, doing a school outreach in a very small town in East Texas. Yesterday, I was on my way to Shreveport, and I drove through the town once again. As I passed the school, I began re-playing images in my mind from the outreach, and I saw the names and faces of students we had ministered to. And I prayed for them, that God would show up in their lives and point them toward who He created them to be, and more importantly, toward Himself.

Had I no previous interaction with the students, teachers and principals at this school, I wouldn’t have given the school a second glance as I drove by. But because I had some level of familiarity, I found myself remembering the outreach and praying for the students, a few of them by name.

Before I started working with the youth outreach ministry, I didn’t spend much time thinking about schools. But now that I have been doing outreaches at them for three years, I find myself praying for most schools that I drive by. And it’s funny, because three years ago, I never pictured myself becoming burdened for schools or students. Coincidentally, I was also not familiar with either one. But then I showed up at an outreach one day, sort of by accident, and in a moment, I became very familiar and aware of the need for this type of ministry.

Familiarity leads to an awareness of need, which leads to compassion, which leads to vision, which leads to action.

Because action rarely happens without vision, many of us are sitting around waiting for vision to come to us, so that we can go out and take action. But what if we’re doing this wrong? What if we need to get out and become familiar with things, so that we can see needs, be moved to compassion, develop vision, and ultimately, take action? Perhaps we need to start showing up places, until we become familiar with the cause that was inside of us all along.