One of my most prized possessions is my leather-bound copy of the book The Valley of Vision. The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers that was edited and compiled by an English-born minister named Arthur Bennet (1915-1994) and published by Banner of Truth in 1975.
This little book of prayer is a collection of gospel-gems that I turn to regularly for devotional sustenance. The book stays on my desk in my study and I often read a prayer or two from it when I arrive at my office in the morning or before services that I preach each Sunday.
As a spiritual exercise, recently I began reading this collection of prayers, meditating on them and then writing a paraphrase of that prayer in my own words.
The opening prayer shares the name of the book: The Valley of Vision. My paraphrase of the prayer now serves as I reminder as I begin my day, leading others.
Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,
You have brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see you in the heights,
hemmed in by mountains of sin, I behold your glory.
Let me learn by paradox,
That the way down is the way up,
That to be low is to be high,
That the broken heart is the healed heart,
That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
That the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
That to have nothing is to have it all,
That to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
That to give is to receive,
That the valley is the place of vision.
Having recently endured a season of personal suffering and ministry challenges, I have found this to be a soul-sustaining truth. Mind you, this prayer is speaking of vision differently from what most leaders think when they talk about “vision.” The “vision” this prayer speaks of is a vision of God Himself. His grace. His gospel. It serves as an important reminder: it is not a ministry vision or mission statement, as helpful as those things can be, that will sustain us in the valley. In the valley, we need something more.
We need a proper vision of who God is.
Without a proper vision of who God is, we cannot cast God’s vision to God’s people. Gospel-centered leadership begins with an understanding of what is true. This prayer serves as a reminder that, ultimately, successe is found in beholding God and the valley is where God is seen most clearly. As I lead each day, I need to be reminded that a vision of God is greater and more important than any vision I could ever create and cast. This prayer presents a God-centered paradigm that flips everything upside down or should I say, right side up. That the way down is up, that the path to true, lasting glory involves a cross before a crown. That the victorious leader is the repentant one.
The world convinces us that leadership is ultimately about the ascent. An ascent to power, position, or authority. Jesus begs to differ. For Jesus, the path of leadership is always down, then up.
It is not on the mountaintops that a vision of God is truly captured.
It’s in the valley.