Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Real Deficit -- Newspaper Column

Deficits. We seem to hear that word a lot these days. Governing parties debate with the opposition how much of a financial deficit is acceptable in the midst of an economic downturn. Politicians muse about a democratic deficit in our Parliamentary processes. Analysts have been talking for years about an infrastructure deficit as our streets and bridges and sewer/water systems age beyond their expected lifespan. Economists constantly watch trade numbers and talk about trade deficits. But with all this talk about deficits is it possible we have missed the biggest deficit of all?

I think we have. I think at almost all levels of our lives together we have a more important deficit to worry about. And in fact, to a degree, dealing with this deficit will help us find a way to deal with all the rest. This is the deficit of vision.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible comes from the book of Proverbs. In the King James Version it is translated Where there is no vision, the people perish. This verse is in fact inscribed over the West window of the Peace Tower in Ottawa. Vision is vital for us to survive and thrive as a society and as a community.

When vision is lacking we tend to go around in circles. When our vision is not forward-looking we tend to spend all our time trying to get back to some sort of “Golden Age” from the past. But when we have a vision that looks ahead, a vision that guides us into the future, then we can grow as communities. With a vision we can find a new way to thrive, without a vision we may struggle to survive.

Where does vision come from? For people of faith asking “where is God calling us to go?” or “what is God calling us to do?” or “who is God calling us to be?” is a way of opening ourselves to a new vision for the world. This means that in our personal and communal life we have to open ourselves to the urging and blowing of the Spirit. And we have to be open to that urging even though it may lead us to a place we have never been before.

As I look around the world I see a lack of vision, or at least a lack of trust in a vision. I see leaders trying to keep an economic model alive despite the evidence that the model is fatally flawed. I see small organization trying to operate as they did 50 years ago despite evidence that people are no longer interested in that way of being. I see people facing crisis by asking how to get back to where they were instead of how to find a new start. At many levels of life we are crying out for a vision of hope for the future.

Where will God's vision lead us in the future? Are we ready to take the risk and open ourselves to the Spirit's leading? Can we dare step forward in trust and hope without really knowing what comes next?

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