The other day I was on a local company’s website trying to get some information. The website was a little confusing and in no short amount of time I found myself clicking on several different tabs within the site as I attempted to find the information I needed. At some point in my hunt I found myself reading this company’s mission and vision statement.
To date, I have read my fair share of vision and mission statements. I still remember my collegiate business policy professor explaining quite clearly and succinctly:
“A mission statement is who you are today. A vision statement is who you want to become in the future.”
Makes sense to me.
After four years in business school and several experiences since then with highly paid consultants who could “take my organization to the next level,” I’ve found myself more than a little skeptical of mission statements. I knows its wise to have guiding/identifying principles in place; especially so when an organization or individual can’t figure out which end is up. Another part of me gets tired of all the jargon. There have been more than a few meetings in my life where I wanted to stand up and scream: “Lets stop talking about who we are and lets just do the things.”
So, it surprised me as I read this company’s “about us” page that I actually found it inspiring to read. Check this out from their core values statement:
Courage: We are afraid of new and scary things, and we believe that we can succeed anyway. We succeed on purpose. Our students and our staff are encouraged to try new things, be uncomfortable, be afraid, and do them anyway.
Isn’t that wonderful? What a great tone to set for a staff and ones customers.
This company’s mission statement brought together a few loose ends for me from 2018. Before hopping online to navigate this website I had put down a book I’d ordered from Amazon a few weeks ago. Its a basic finance book for young couples. Folks…its truly as basic as it gets. There is not a jazzy word or slogan in its 300ish pages to be found. Its a return to the fundamentals: set your budget, don’t live beyond your means, save a little bit every month.
These are all things that I’ve known and for the most part practiced since I left for college in 2002. My parents knew and practiced these things and taught them to me. But for some reason when we went from two full time incomes to 1 and a little (Thanks Mom gig!) I found myself getting…I don’t know…fatalistic. I think that’s the right word.
It was as though if I couldn’t put a huge chunk of change in our savings account each month than it wasn’t worth it in the end. If I couldn’t give to my church or my organization of choice in the amount I deemed appropriate than I just shouldn’t bother at all. And so, I got a little stagnant. And not just financially. The same has happened with my writing as I found if I couldn’t get a huge chunk of time to myself than my desires to write the big project I’ve long wanted to tackle should just be tabled for some distant day when I could get that time. Never mind that those large pockets of time just never seem to be available. At least not with any consistency.
Some different thoughts are starting to come together though.
Like this one:
Most of the books that have ever been written were written in one hour chunks.
- All of the houses that were ever built began with a first delivery of lumber.
- All of the plants that were ever planted started out from one seed.
- All of the relationships that ever began started with an initial “Hi, what’s your name?”
- All of the children that were ever born started out as one embryonic pin prick’s worth of cells. I still have an ultrasound picture of Ellie…when she was the size of a BLUEBERRY.
And here’s ANOTHER interesting thing to consider… When most of these really big things, like babies and books and houses and friendships start growing, the world doesn’t stop with its needs.
When I found out I was pregnant with Ellie, for instance, I still had to show up at work the next day. After an author finishes a chapter in her latest creative expression, she still has to figure out what she’s going to have for lunch. When a contractor drops off an initial load of lumber he still has to get the oil changed in his car.
I guess what’s finally clicking for me in this season is this: Sure, there may be times in life where growth or fruit comes quickly. But I don’t think this is normative. Not for the big things, like houses and babies and careers and deep friendships. These things take water and sunlight and attention and, frankly, just a heck of a lot of TIME.
A speaker I heard recently shared about a season in her life when her health just would not get into gear. She was struggling with chronic illness and was just trying and trying and trying to find THE THING that would heal her and when each thing she tried “failed” she would start to think that she was actually failing in some way. It wasn’t until she found herself spilling her guts at an empty table with her brother in law that she finally started getting some clarity. After some serious word vomit, this woman’s brother finally asked her this incredibly wise question:
“OK, but is your life bearing fruit?”
From a Biblical perspective, the fruit of the spirit is this: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control.
This wise man was asking her if despite her frustrations about healing was she growing in the things that really mattered over the long haul of a life. Because here’s what we all know but maybe don’t want to admit. Our physical bodies will fall apart some day and one day go away entirely. But you know what won’t go away? Those things that echo far beyond our 70 or 80 years that come about as a result of love and joy and gentleness and self control. Of course, that also means that the things that we do as a result of fear and hate and anger will echo out far beyond ourselves as well. My assumption here though is that we are reaching for the noble life. And nobility seems to start with the things they teach us in preschool. Be patient. Be kind. Clean up after the messes you’ve made.
In our society, the fruit of the spirit is not very sexy. We like the hustler and the woman who takes no prisoners in her field of work. I confess that I read passages from Paul in the new testament and wonder if its all a little too kumbaya. (Colossians 3:12-17 for example) But if anything, Paul had an understanding of lasting impact that was formed by the gospel. A gospel that says we are far too easily pleased by our own self-motivated, self-governed efforts. Frankly, I believe he knew that the the REAL BATTLE in life was not ultimately to cross as many things off our to-do lists as possible in a given week but to fight for the slow growing fruit of love, joy, peace and patience in an increasingly neurotic world. A world with so many to-do lists and side hustles and life goals that we’ve forgotten why we have them in the first place.
There’s so much more to write here but this post is already too long. Let me leave it at this: I’ve become too cynical about mission statements. They are put in place for seasons like the one my family is in where we truly do not know which way the chips are going to fall. The other day I shared with Andy about the mission statement I’d found and connected it to the incredibly unsexy financial advice I’d read in a book with a boring cover. I then considered the growth we’ve made as people over the last 10 years of good, hard struggle that we’ve fought through and suggested this:
I think if our family ever established a mission statement it would say this:
“Our family pursues slow and steady growth.”
To which Andy responded:
He knew it. I knew it. Both of us have goals that are not coming off the check list as quickly as we would like. In many ways we expected we’d be further along. But I believe as I look back across 10 years I can say that I am far more patient than I was at 25. I’m certainly more peaceful. And joy is absolutely a more consistent thread in my life.
These traits increasingly feel like solid ground to me. A place to stand on days when the sun is shining and also on the days, weeks and months when the clouds just won’t seem clear. I’ll take the freedom that comes from that kind of fruit any day of the week.