Isn't that a joke from Calvin & Hobbes?
I've been thinking a lot about vision lately. Mostly because I just got glasses. I have developed astigmatism and nearsightedness in my mid-forties. I was prepared at this point in life to go to the drugstore and get a pair of reading glasses. Instead I need prescription corrective lenses to be able to read the clock from across my kitchen.
So I've spent a lot of the last two months taking them off and putting them on again, testing my vision. Looking at things under and over and around my glasses, as I become aware of what they do better and where they don't work in my range of vision. Pretty soon I'm going to need bifocals to be able to adjust, because now that the astigmatism is fixed, I'm noticing that I do have to hold my paper at arm's length to be able to see what I'm writing more clearly. The doctor warned me that as my eyes stop straining so hard to focus all the time it would seem like my vision was getting worse. Really, it's just that my eyes aren't trying as hard to make up for their defects. So I don't see as well but I'm not making my brain as tired as it would have been either. And these days, my brain is getting plenty tired working on the other kind of vision anyway.
Part of my job as the new Executive Secretary of the Friends World Committee for Consultation - Section of the Americas is to articulate a new and compelling vision of the purpose and function of FWCC. One of the first set of tasks was to establish more clarity around our financial situation. Another set of tasks is preparing for the World Conference, including envisioning what will come out of the 6WC and how can we at FWCC be supportive of the movement of the Holy Spirit among Friends in the coming year?
I'm reminded of the place in Paul's letter to the Corinthians where he says, now we see as in a mirror, dimly, but then [in God's kingdom] we will see clearly. And if you think about the quality of mirrors in Paul's day, which were just polished metal, you'll better understand how dim he thinks we are.
Some days, I too feel like I'm surrounded by fog and molasses. Can't see far, can't move fast. John Woolman has a story about being in a swamp and having to stand still until he can find the next stepping stone. I know that feeling.
But it's not always like that. Sometimes, I have flashes of clarity and insight and farsightedness and I know where I'm going and how to get there. Those are the stepping stones I cling to and my sense of God's guidance is palpable. I believe God sends the vision, and it's my job to use my practical gifts (like math and planning and listening skills) to move along the path.
I'm realizing that when I see clearly, in a prophetic sense, not just with my glasses on, I am already in the Kingdom. It's not just for after we die. The Kingdom is among us. Some people see more clearly, more often, already. All of us see that clearly sometimes. Quakers everywhere need to pay attention to those moments of clear seeing and use them to inform our plain speaking.
I'm working on paying more attention when I'm seeing clearly and then being more bold in speaking my truth, in claiming the force of my vision, in inviting people to see things my way. The head of another Quaker organization put it this way: when you are the executive director, you have been given the opportunity to see things from a different perspective, in all directions. The key is learning how to communicate to others how, if they were in your seat, they'd see these things and that would help them understand why you're suggesting this action.
I'm still learning how to balance my vision with committee process. That's probably a lifetime's work, and I won't pretend that I've got it right yet. But I also worry whether Quakers are ready for leaders with vision. Will we continue to cut them down, like Tall Poppies? Is there room for someone like me to make mistakes without failing completely?
I would love to hear a) any stories of Quaker leaders & committees/organizations that have functioned well together past or present or b) advice on how you or someone you know have successfully navigated this pathway and what tools (spiritual or practical) you think are useful.
Because the world is hungry for what Friends have to offer. All the Friends, together. At our best, we live and work out of a dynamic tension, a paradox of faith and practice, of contemplation and action, of usefulness today and for the future, and I want to be part of bringing that forth, being the best we can be and giving the world what it needs. That is what FWCC is for. I am honored to be part of it. It needs the best I can give it. I need all the help I can get.
[In the comments, I don't really want to hear all the stories of how badly leaders have been treated in the past or currently, thank you very much. I know enough of those already. I will delete whiny comments, at my sole discretion and with no apologies.]
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