What Do You See Over There?

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week 22

I have always looked at decades as milestones in life. I was too young to appreciate this when I turned ten years old, but every decade beginning with age twenty presented opportunity for a significant pause to look back to what God allowed me to accomplish and forward to what He held in store.

On July 8, 1985, I turned age twenty. There seemed more life ahead than there was behind. I was a high school graduate who had completed two of the four years of my bachelor’s degree. I was a student at Lincoln Memorial University, an institution that daily reminded me of my childhood and lifetime hero. I found it comforting that Ronald Reagan was President of the United States—even then I sensed he was the Lincoln of my lifetime, an idea that I have not changed over time. I was in love with my college sweetheart, and I looked forward to marrying her and entering the teaching profession. I went to my tenth high school reunion.

Ten years later, on July 8, 1995, I turned thirty. Bill Clinton was president, and though times seemed pretty good, I did not feel as comfortable with his presidency as I had Reagan’s. The college sweetheart and I had long since parted. I obtained my third college degree. I had ended my eighth year of teaching at Luttrell Elementary and was on the verge of becoming principal of Sharps Chapel Elementary. By then I owned a house. Since all I had originally set out to do was to graduate college, get a job, get tenure, marry, and buy a house, I had accomplished all my goals except marriage.

I felt very depressed the day of my thirtieth birthday because it seemed that a third or more of my life was over and nothing great and wonderful loomed on the horizon. There was no prospect for a Mrs. Ronnie Mincey, and since it was the only goal I had not accomplished, I set out to help God help me attain a wife, with almost disastrous consequences. It is never wise to rush God, but he saved me from myself just in time.

What was lacking at this point in my life was vision. In his book Who You Are When No One’s Looking: Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise, Bill Hybels identifies vision as the third of five endangered characteristics of true character.

I spent the decade of my thirties reaching a few more milestones and developing a new vision. During my thirties, I had a different job every year for four years. I spent seven of those years as principal of Sharps Chapel Elementary, one year as principal of Luttrell Elementary, one year as assistant principal at Maynardville Elementary, and one year as elementary curriculum supervisor for the Union County Public School System. (My college roommate came for a visit and asked me if I was just that good or if they couldn’t decide what to do with me. I told him I was just that darn good!) The decade of the thirties introduced me to my wife, though marriage was not to come until the next decade.

I began my forties on July 8, 2005. The second George Bush was president. Though I realized my life was possibly half or more over when I turned forty, I kept busy so I didn’t think about it any more than possible. I began the job I currently hold with the school system that summer, married the following year, became step-father to a handicapped young man, and obtained one more college degree in 2012. I attended my thirtieth high school reunion in 2013.

And then I turned fifty. If I live to be a hundred (which my family history shows to be unlikely), life was half over at that point. Now my goals are to work a few more years, then retire and enjoy life before, as my will says, the “final sickness” calls me to a higher realm than I have ever known.

I would be the last to call myself a “visionary.” On this issue I tend to side with Lincoln. In a letter to Albert G. Hodges from the “Executive Mansion” dated April 4, 1864, just one year and ten days before his assassination, Lincoln said, “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.” (Reference—Google)

I have a Japanese proverb posted on my office door that I read every day: “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” There are those who dream great dreams and have great thoughts but never take action to make dreams come true.

Why do some never act on their great plans? Possibly it is the fear of taking a risk or being thought a failure. These people daydream of a future that will never exist because they do nothing to make it possible. If Thomas Edison had not kept trying after thousands of attempts to create the light bulb, we might possibly be using kerosene lamps today. Edison is quoted as having said to someone who told him he’d failed, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” (Reference—Google)

Conversely, there are those who impulsively do whatever first comes to mind, never stopping to think how their rash decisions will affect their and their loved ones’ futures. They act without a plan. In Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which way she should go. The Cat told her that depended a great deal on where she wanted to go. Alice said she didn’t much care where, and the Cat told her it didn’t matter which way she went. Alice just wanted to get somewhere, and the Cat told her she was sure to do that if only she walked long enough.

One thing’s for sure—those who act without plans for the future will get somewhere, but it might not be where they want to be. Like a roach motel, they might check in, but they won’t check out.

Without either vision or action, a person will get nowhere. That is the scientific law of inertia applied to human life: a body at rest tends to remain at rest. As the lyrics to “The River” sung by Garth Brooks state:

So don't you sit upon the shoreline
And say you're satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance that tide

And I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I'll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry

Next week I’ll discuss yet another endangered character quality.

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