Easter Sunday sermons often mention the large stone in front of the tomb and the spices being brought by the women. As the women arrived at the tomb they were concerned about circumstances – how would they move the large stone, and would the spices be enough. They lost focus on the vision Jesus had previously shared. Then Mary Magdalene ran ahead to Simon Peter and the other disciple saying, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” They were not living in the vision of the Risen Lord, they were not trusting the process He clearly laid out for them.
As individuals we often ‘live in circumstances,’ instead of ‘live in our vision.’ We all have difficult circumstances in our lives which can lead us to focus only on the negative. It’s our thinking, not our conditions, that determines how we feel. When we control our thinking circumstances cannot dictate our experience of life. We cannot control the situations that we encounter, but we can control how we react to them.
Chuck Pagano as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, was diagnosed with leukemia. That week he delivered an emotional speech to his team after their come-from-behind victory against the Miami Dolphins. His speech was directed to his team, but the meaning carried well beyond the locker room. It was about a mindset and commitment to a vision regardless of the obstacles or circumstances encountered along the way. Coach Pagano said- “we refused to live in circumstances and we decided consciously as a team and as a family to live in a vision.”
Living in our vision is imperative to staying the course when surrounded by problematic circumstance and disruption. If we don’t have a vision, get one, and live in it. If not, our circumstances will dictate our life. Stephen Covey’s second habit is, “Begin with the End in Mind” or quite simply ‘have a vision’. Highly effective people do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their conscious choice, and vision; not based on conditions, feelings and circumstances.
JFK had a vision in the early 1960s when the U.S. fell behind the Soviet Union in the technology race. His words: “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” He committed this nation to a vision, one that catapulted us to great achievements. It also now stands as a standard for goal setting. However, this vision had its share of circumstances – the head of NASA at that time didn’t agree with the vision, the nation was having budget priority issues, civil rights issues, cold war issues. All reasons to lose sight of the vision.
Where there’s a vision, call it a ‘Why’; there also needs to be a process, or a ‘How’. A vision implies we have a view of where we want to get to; but it doesn’t necessarily mean we know exactly the path to get us there. There can be lots of paths. According to a study, 70% of all successful new businesses end up with a strategy different than the one they initially pursued. There are a gazillion methods and tactics, but there are very few whys. When we have a vision and believe in it, we see the discovery and growth amidst the daily grind and maybe even chaos. Once we know our why, there will be a how. We then have to trust that process, in the day to day.
Sports teams, especially football, rely on visualization to increase their chances of success. Players need to see the play as a diagram in the playbook, visualize themselves in that situation, see the play on videotape, and do it on the field – over and over. By running a play or a defense during the week of practice and seeing it successfully executed, we can visualize exactly how it’s going to look on Friday Night. If we’ve been sharp in practice, then we have confidence that it will go the same way during the game. Successful execution on Friday Nights is the vision we live in, not the circumstances of the weather, injuries, school work, girlfriend issues, etc. The week of practice is the process.
In Matthew, Chapter 14, Jesus asks Peter to step out of the boat and walk on water. Peter got out of the boat and started walking to Jesus. He had his eyes fixed on Him the whole time. Then circumstances – wind and waves – broke Peter of living in his vision; he stopped trusting the process and he started to drown.
Circumstances are temporary. A vision can last an eternity. If we have a vision, nothing can stop us. Make that conscious decision and start living our vision. If we live out of our vision then we tend to focus on those things that we want to occur, whereas living out of our circumstance focuses on what has not occurred or will not occur. The greatest example of this complete principle is Jesus himself. His vision was on the Father and fulfilling His promise to us. He achieved His vision despite significant circumstances and His process was one of daily prayer.
We each have our large stones and strong winds to confront causing us to temporarily lose sight of our vision. Like Mary Magdalene and Peter, our own human nature can cause lapses in our choices. However, as Peter started to drown, Jesus was present to stretch out his hand and catch him; as Mary Magdalene sat in tears outside the tomb, Jesus appeared to comfort and assure her. We know our ‘why’, He gave us the example of His ‘how’. We must trust that process and grind amidst the chaos, day by day.