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  • Reverend James Squire

Vision And Provision

Solomon, reportedly one of the wisest people to ever live, is believed to be the author of the book of Proverbs. He says in that book, “that without a vision, the people perish.” Vision gives us direction. If it is God’s vision for us, then it comes with a provision. Vision that is open to God’s provision brings about support, resilience, courage, purpose, and awareness of what is truly important in life.

Zig Zigler, American author, said it this way, “I opened two gifts this morning. They were my eyes.”

When I think of the words of Proverbs and Zig Zigler, I think of two people whose vision literally has been supported by the promise of the provision of God’s gifts to each of us.

One of the videos that I showed to my Ethics class was “The Miracle on Everest.” It is a survivor’s story, Beck Weathers, of the ill-fated climb up Mt. Everest in 1996 where many died during a storm that caught the climbers by surprise. Jon Krakauer’s best selling book, Into Thin Air, captures the struggle of these climbers. Whether we like it or not, a way to reach young people with an important message can be through both book or a film.

The movie, “Miracle on Everest,” describes the severity of the storm and the awful circumstances that killed so many of the climbers. It combines the biology of what was happening to the climbers such as oxygen depletion and frostbite with their vision or spirit. Weathers stands alone on the stage to present the lecture with interim moments showing clips of the storm itself and the people on the climb. He himself stands before us without a nose and missing several fingers on his hands which is clearly evident.

The students were gripped by the overwhelming challenge to survive including facts that most climbers die coming down from a mountain and not going up. The height of Everest is 29,032 feet which is the same altitude that airplanes fly. The viewer is told that if it weren’t for training, acclimation, and some oxygen, the climbers would immediately die from lack of oxygen if simply dropped on the upper reaches of the mountain. The students are engaged with the “miracle” of Weathers survival, but they don’t see the real definition of a “miracle” coming that the title of the movie references.

Like Zigler and his eyes open to perhaps the new vision of Proverbs, Weathers utters a line that knocked the students back in their seats. Weathers says, “A miracle occurred the morning after the storm. I opened my eyes. That’s it. I opened my eyes! But I opened my eyes to more than just seeing what was around me on the mountain. I saw that I needed to see my wife and children and not say goodbye to them on the side of a mountain. I saw for the first time that I had traveled across the whole world seeking happiness and meaning, and it was in my home and backyard all the time in the form of my family. That’s it. I lost my hands but gained the realization of what is really important. It was a bargain. I wouldn’t trade that realization for anything. My survival is not the real miracle. It was learning what was really important.” That is a sacred message that made holy his climb. That was his new vision that would not perish.

On the other hand, you don’t need eyes to see the vision that has the provision of God’s gifts of grit, resilience, and courage.

I first met Erik Weihenmayer a few years before he made his climb up Mt. Everest on May 25, 2001. He was the first blind person to do it. I invited Erik to come and speak to the EA community. He was just getting started as a motivational speaker. He is now in great demand. Marshall McLuhan said that “the medium is the message.” This means that the best messenger for understanding the message of courage is the person standing before you. It makes the messenger and message authentic. We want to see the person who has done something special. It was a powerful time for our students to have someone blind stand before them to hear and see how he turned his blindness into a new vision of awareness of what you can do. When you see with the vision of Solomon and understand the gifts that God gives us, you are equipped to confront any moment of challenge.

Erik was a champion wrestler in the state of Connecticut so I took him to wrestling practice as well so that he could speak directly to the wrestlers. After he climbed Everest, a group of schools including EA invited him to come and speak and show a video that someone had done capturing the climb on film. I took the Upper School from EA to the Academy of Music in Philadelphia to be part of this event. Erik now has three books that have been published; Touch the Top of the World, The Adversity Challenge, No Barriers: A blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon.

Without a vision, you and I do perish, if we do not have the provision of the gifts of the spirit. Vision of this kind is not 20/20, it enables us to see what cannot be seen. It sees what is in our heart. Once again Solomon’s wisdom and humankind’s inspiration lead the way.

On the way back on the bus from hearing and seeing Erik at the Academy of Music, the students made clear to me that they would never forget that day after seeing Erik again after his climb up Everest. Here is a not so well-kept secret of mine. Teaching is not about information or a subject. It is about creating memories for students that will create, in turn, a vision to be more than they thought they can be and do more than they thought they could do.

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