Before any new endeavor, whether it’s planting a garden, writing a book, or learning play an instrument, we have to begin with a grand vision.
When our oldest son (Joseph) expressed some interest in learning piano, my wife (Jessie) wisely began not with hand placement or musical scales, she began with a vision. She found online videos of child prodigies, full of freedom and joy, dazzling audiences with their mastery of the craft.
After a few videos, Joseph ran to the piano to begin. Then and only then, Jessie explained the basics: Start with your hands here, here’s what notes are, and make sure you begin with these exercises.
Begin with the end in mind, then start at the beginning.
A vision enables us to see where we’re going and why it matters. Without a vision of success, it’s so easy to get discouraged—or to not even begin.
As we explore the soil conditions necessary for (spiritual) formation and growth, it’s essential to first have a vision for life in full bloom. In other words, we begin with the end in mind.
What does a plant or tree or person look like in maturity—when the soil has been properly watered, nourished, and protected? Good fruit!
St. Paul’s simple statement gives us a vision of a person in full bloom (Galatians 5:16, 22-23, 25):
So I say, walk by the Spirit… The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control… Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Eugene Peterson paraphrases in The Message:
What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Dallas Willard described the process of spiritual formation in terms of Vision, Intention, and Means. Begin with a Vision of where you want to end, make an Intention to get there, and then commit to the Means that will get you there.
This is the vision:
A deeply rooted life, drawing on the hidden nutrients of God’s Word and presence, will produce a full-bloom experience of love, joy, and peace.
Once this vision is established and our desires rise to meet it, then we can move on to the intention and the means. We’ll get there soon!
For now, spend a moment reflecting on these questions:
What do you want your life to look like? What’s your vision of fruitfulness?
What are the two or three spiritual fruits you long to see increasing in your life?
What is your intention? What would it look like to commit to this vision?