To say “hindsight is 20/20,” is true. Looking back does become clear if you are brave enough, and honest enough, to look and recognize what you failed to see because of pride and a lack of self-awareness. But what if, moving forward, you were able to recognize when your vision was blurring, and that you needed help in seeing things more clearly? Most often, though, pride keeps us from admitting we have a vision problem.
When I was in middle school, I was told by the optometrist three words that no pre-teen wants to hear: “You need glasses.” He could’ve just said to me, “We’re going to strap a windshield to two earpieces for you to wear,” because that is exactly what these glasses were; or at least it seemed that way. I was tempted to ask how often I would need to change the windshield wipers on each lens, they were so big. Needless to say, I did not want to wear them. It was less painful running into doors and lockers at school, than enduring the cruel epithets of middle schoolers.
I remember, almost like it was yesterday, playing an away basketball game at Stripling Middle School in Ft. Worth, Texas, and made the game-time decision not to wear my glasses. In my mind, it was better to try and look cool, than to play good. All perceived coolness went out the window, though, when I was fouled early in the game, went to the free throw line, and shot an airball. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I thought I had made it until the coach pulled me out of the game and informed me otherwise. It was one of the worst games I had ever played because I couldn’t see the goal clearly enough. My distance was all jacked up, and so was my pride. A lack of humility and a even greater concern for what others thought about me, were emotional astigmatisms that affected my vision more so off the court than on.
Poor vision needs to be corrected so that you can clearly see what’s in front of you, both near and far. And it takes humility to admit that you need help to see better. I’m not talking about physical sight, as much as I am about “life” sight.
In the book of Exodus, after Moses had led Israel out of Egyptian captivity, he was faced with leadership challenges that were overwhelming. If the elements weren’t enough in going through a desert wilderness, there was a daily dose of dealing with the complainers, the know-it-alls, the whiners, the ignorant, and the non-compliant (See Exodus 15:22 and the following chapters). It was wearing on Moses, and to such a degree that his father-in-law, Jethro, saw what was happening, and offered Moses a pair of leadership glasses.
Listen to what Jethro said to Moses. “What you are doing is not good. You and the people will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” Exodus 18:18
Jethro knew that the sustainability and longevity of Moses leading well, and living well, would require seeing things more clearly and eliminating any debris that would affect his vision.
This isn’t just a leadership lesson, or neatly packaged axioms only for those who lead. This is for every person who wants to be a better person, have a better marriage, be a better parent, be a better friend, and live a better life.
I have learned if I want to see more clearly moving forward, I need people like Jethro in my life; people who enhance my vision, not cloud it. What that has looked like for me, and what I have learned on a practical level, is this:
“Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God . . .” was some of Jethro’s advice to Moses. There’s a difference between fear and familiarity. Fear can quickly fade into the familiar. Familiarity leads to indifference, but fear leads to awe. I want to be one who is in awe of God, and that only comes when He is seen for who He is, and there is an honest assessment of who we are not. The deeper I go in my union with Christ, the more I see His awesomeness; the more aware I become of not only my neediness of Him, but also my desire for Him. And that’s a good thing. It has become clearer to me that the level of our indifference or awe tends to be greatly influenced by those we are around. Although, ultimately, indifference or awe towards God is a heart issue, seek out those who are stirred by a sense of awe towards God, not stagnated by indifference. In other words, identify and spend time with those who are seeking God consistently, and are more concerned about following Him than they are about impressing others. Those who fear God; who walk in humility and enjoy intimacy with God. They are not unlike Peter and John, in Acts, who were identified by the Jewish religious leaders as men who, because of their lifestyle, were identified as having been with Jesus. Those who fear God are those who have a high view of God’s word, and God’s ways. They seek to be obedient, regardless the cost.
By that, it does not mean only those who will always agree with you, or tell you what you want to hear. Pray for, and seek out, those who genuinely care about you; who really do have your best interest at heart; who will not only encourage you and celebrate your successes, but will also help you see the blindspots of your life and walk with you through your failures; surround yourself with those who will stay close when life is difficult, and move on from those who, for whatever reasons, don’t. Be careful not to confuse your followers and friends on your favorite social platforms to be ones who are for you.
One of my mentors shared with me something that has become very instrumental in how I receive and prayerfully process what is said of me, and to me. He encouraged me to think as though I had three buckets: Bucket 1–This is true of me. Bucket 2–This is not true of me. Bucket 3–I’m not sure if this is true of me, but I want to know. This was not said so as to be another self-help tool, because we’re never as honest with ourselves, or as aware of ourselves, as we need to be. But instead, he encouraged me to frame it this way: “God, show me what is true of me and what is not. And for what I continue to be unsure of, show me. It has been wise and sustaining counsel.
The tendency in our culture is to find those who are accepted and absorbed by the crowd, not those who stand out from the crowd. We need those who are wisely assessing and observing; who see things others aren’t seeing; who are not disconnected from current reality, but know how and when to dig deep to get to the root of things, and who know how and when to take higher ground so as to get a different perspective. It reminds me of the men of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32), “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel out to do . . .” The men Jethro encouraged Moses to surround himself with, were men who stood out from the crowd; who were wise, discerning, and effective. In practicality, its seeking out those who you look at and think, “I really would like to get their perspective; I really would like to spend time with them and soak in the wisdom they have to give.”
• Vet thoroughly–as believers, we should seek to believe the best about others, but that does not mean we are careless in our vulnerability.
• Choose wisely–not everyone you encounter will be those who will go with you into the “Gethsemane” moments of life.
• Move slowly, but consistently–healthy relationships are built over time.
You won’t find perfect people who have perfect life vision. However, there are those who, even in their moments of blurred vision, recognize their need, admit their vision issues, and look to God for correction. Those who are pursuing becoming more like Jesus, being conformed to His image rather than the image of the world, and those who know and seek to do what is right and honoring of Christ, are those you want speaking into your life.
Ironically enough, in the year 2020, what started out as being a year of “vision” has opened our eyes to see things we never thought we would see about ourselves, our relationships, our faith, our churches, our priorities, our idols, our culture, and a myriad of other areas. And as our eyes are opening, I pray we don’t miss what it is that God is wanting us to clearly see.