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July 7, 1995

More Than An Echo

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While it is helpful to think about The Echo Effect our perspectives play upon our lives, it is also enjoyable to consider the energizing characteristics that accompany a long view of life, a living within time.
Such a view helps develop unfortunately rare character traits like hope, patience and endurance. In his letter to the church in Rome, the apostle Paul points to these exact traits, as he reminds us to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” In spite of some incredible circumstances in his own life, Paul was able to advocate the long view of life because he believed unswervingly in God’s sovereignty. Difficult life circumstances often make it challenging for us to wade through tribulation with Paul’s attitude, rejoicing in something we may not see. When, however, you and I live in anticipation and expectation for what the future holds, we are much more likely to cling to the hope Paul describes – Hope of a way out, an answer to our problem, a provision for our need.
When we understand that life doesn’t end when something bad happens, we also realize that we can keep hope in focus as life stretches out in front of us and that we can make it through the shadows—we can flourish. This idea always brings to mind a favorite quote from the gutsy Brit himself, Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Those are the words of a man who saw life stretch out before him—vast and dewy with opportunity. If a man like Churchill, who frankly faced greater challenges than most of will ever encounter, can live with such a perspective, then we too should be inspired to see past everyday troubles and realize that we flourish when we overcome.
A long view of life isn’t just about persevering through struggles; it also helps us relax. When everything isn’t tied up in the present and in immediate reactions, we become more accepting. Small slights and inconveniences carry less weight, and forgiveness comes more easily. We come to care more about the health of lasting relationships and less about he immediate hurt of a callous comment. This is critical for the flourishing life. If I collect a bunch of broken relationships because I can’t see past my most recent hurt or disappointment, then I’ll likely end up a bitter old man who would rather wither in my own shortsightedness than flourish in my long view of life.
“But wait a minute, Steve. Is it wrong, then, to live in the moment—to enjoy it and savor it?”
That’s a fair question!
I’m not trying to radically divorce us from the present and keep us from enjoying the here-and-now. Theologians have for years embraced a ‘now and not yet’ mindset. It is the idea that the true spiritual reality has a now element and a not yet – future element. What I am doing is encouraging us to maintain a perspective that doesn’t simply look down at our feet, but also keeps an eye on the road ahead. That doesn’t mean we neglect what is in front of us. On the contrary! I think we embrace and enjoy the present in an even more meaningful way when we possess a long view of life. This is because a long view gives us peace for the moment, and hope for the future, and an attitude of “I’ll learn from my mistakes” regarding the past.
I have several friends that ride mountain bikes. One of them recently explained to me the importance of ‘looking through the turn’ when riding. What he meant is that when you’re approaching a tight turn you should keep one eye on the ground in front of you, so that you don’t veer off path, but also look through the turn and down the path. This allows a rider to prepare for what lies ahead and see what is coming up. It doesn’t mean they’re not “in it” at that moment. It doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying the winding trail. It means that by keeping their vision down the path, they are actually able to better enjoy the part of the path they’re on. I love that—and that’s what I’m saying here.
The flourishing life is the flowering life—and that happens right now, in a moment, and also continues into the next moment, and the next. I’d be an ignorant farmer if I decided not to enjoy the apples growing on my apple trees. But I’d be equally foolish if I decided to eat them all right now and not plan ifor the winter.

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