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The key to 2020 Vision is in View

Evan and Evelyn Eagle greet the sunrise before the new year

This pair of eagles was perched on the rooftop, amiably and companionably awaiting the rise of the new day, new month, new year, new decade. I wonder what they can see way up ahead, where their eagle eyes can pierce through the fog, the foliage and the distance.

My eyes, on the other hand, are such feeble instruments, requiring spectacles to read the tiny print and binoculars to bring distant things into focus. What meager vision I have by comparison to these two magnificent creatures. And yet, I perch before my day and pretend to see it clearly.

Vision, what a miraculous gift! But how confounding. Because my two eyes, set apart as they are, give me two versions of my world, one from the right and one from the left. Thus, I have two perspectives on every viewpoint, such that by holding them together I may compare them and judge their distance. This is how My Designer teaches me depth perception.

In order to compare what each side sees, some of the “image” from my right eye crosses over to the left side of my brain and some of the “image” from my left eye crosses over to the right. Thus, my brain shares visual input “across its aisle,” considering both sides before concluding what it sees. This is how my Designer teaches me deliberation.

Because of the unique properties of the lens in my eye, the image on my retina is projected upside down. The top is on the bottom and the bottom is on the top. Only as I use my body through my environment, touching, feeling, manipulating what’s before me can I convert the image to see it “right side up.” This is how my Designer teaches me mind-body connection.

Next, my eyes send this abstract collection of color, intensity and pattern on a journey to my visual cortex where the inputs are compared with patterns I have seen before and impressions made by previous experience. Along with other pertinent sensory input, all of this is “processed” in light of what I’ve learned and what I believe. This is how my Designer teaches me understanding.

Finally, I see.

Isn’t it miraculous how inside a problem lay its solution? How inside a question lay its answer? And if we pay close attention, how inside a human lay our solution for humanity? This is how my Designer teaches me about Himself.

Sitting together on a rooftop taking in the long view before the sunrise of a new decade, I pray we might see into the distance and be completely and utterly amazed. Now that would be 2020 VISION.

*For more like this check out Made to Move: Knowing and Loving God Through Our Bodies.

Steadied by Design, even in “present shock”

There’s no more need for the narrative…they say. They, being CNN Opinion writer Douglas Rushkoff. “It’s a quaint structure that went out with the industrial age and the moon shot. We live in a state of present shock.”

In the aftermath of breaking news every moment with the Boston tragedy, all of us hanging on every pixel of our computers, I am hard-pressed to disagree. That, even as I work on my narrative, a story with a problem to be resolved which changes the main character for the better.

Books are so old fashioned, Rushkoff contends. Beginning-middle-end is just not how we live. As he cleverly puts the battle against terrorism, “We can’t stick a flag in it and call it won.”

His message: Things are no longer conquests with clear endpoints; they’re more steady state concerns. Let’s be about the dealing with the now. In real time. Don’t bother yourself with history or strategy. Victory is just not an option. He concludes, “Life goes on.”

Does this bother anyone else but me? That life is just a skating rink where I go round and round, waiting till my balance fails me and I slip and fall? I think I am worth more than that to God. And to my family, friends and neighbors. I think I am part of a much larger narrative, so large in fact that from my tiny vantage point I can’t see the way forward. Perhaps I can just see the ice oval.

And there is no question, it’s slippery.

It’s that very characteristic of life, its danger and risk, that causes me to grapple with the narrative. What is the story that sheds light and meaning for me? What helps me keep my balance?

The question reminds me of an encounter a good friend Barbara told me about during her recent business excursion to Beijing. She befriended a young woman who knew Barbara to be a Christian and the woman asked her, “How do you know your faith is not a fairy tale?” Barbara was hard-pressed to answer that for a woman with no Bible and no experience with Christianity. The Biblical narrative is a story lived and recorded many centuries ago. The question was valid: How can we know it’s true? How can we count on the truth it offers?

Barbara told me she shared with this woman the assurance she now has looking back on her life and seeing all the ways God directed events to head her toward Him. I know this is true for Barbara, but I wonder how helpful the “looking back” testimony is to people of today. Who live in present shock. Their perspective is present tense. Literally. It probably rings just as hollow as telling the bombing victims “it will all be okay.” Their need is now.

That’s where I realize how much I count on the narrative. The knowing that the story has a beginning, middle and end. The beginning and the end have already been written. We’re living in the middle. But I don’t think we’re mired in the middle. Steady-state just has that feel to it. Cause and effect, cause and effect, everything a stimulus and a response to maintain the status quo. A maintenance of the civil and the responsible and the healthy. Guess that makes us all maintenance workers.

As a scientist I know this pattern as homeostasis. It’s the miraculous design of our bodies to live and breathe and grow and survive. It doesn’t always succeed. Unguided or random stimulus like cancer may spiral it into dishealth and illness. It is easy to see the impact. But let’s not miss the flip side. Guided, directed, proportional stimulus can send it exactly in the other direction. We call this growth.

Stimulus is a constant. But I find it miraculous that we were designed to withstand it, even to grow from it, almost as if our Designer knew what was coming. Having a healthy narrative that guides our response is a recipe for survival. Mr. Rushkoff, that is life. In the end I have the hope that I may look back and see it. From the middle I am now in, it looks and feels slippery and very much the oval. But when in a moment of balance and beautiful glide, however temporary, I allow myself to look back on the places I’ve been saved from myself, my confidence is renewed. There is assurance. My story has a purpose; my life is worth that much.

Call me old-fashioned. I’m choosing the narrative. Makes much better telling.

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