Those of you who spend time with me in person have probably heard too much of this analogy, but I like this one. I keep thinking that living life is like wearing bifocals.
Bifocals give you the ability to see at two distances. When you’re driving, they allow you to both scan the road and check your speedometer. When you’re speaking, they help you see both the notes in front of you and the audience you’re there to address. Things that are right under your nose and things that are more distant.
What brought this up is my job search. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was fourteen, when I started composing my first novel by hand in a purple journal. When you’re fourteen, it’s easy to follow the advice “dream big!” because you live in a state of sweet ignorance about things like bills and taxes and insurance. My plans were purely long-term and big-picture.
In college, though, the message changed. Be realistic. Get a job. Interviews. Resumes. Monster.com. There are things called rent and health insurance and groceries that actually cost money. Ack! My focus shifted to the immediate needs of a self-supporting adult.
After graduating, I was blessed enough to be able to move back in with my mom, relieving the immediate pressure of bills while I searched for work, although I still felt the tension of long-term versus short-term concerns. It was the headache in every decision I made. I was presented with a full-time teaching job, some technical writing opportunities, and the opportunity to be a private English tutor, among others. Status symbols and material luxury aren’t important to me, but becoming financially independent and “proving” that I’m not going to be the 30-year-old bum in my mom’s basement are.
For me, the temptation to grab at instant security was almost overwhelming—is almost overwhelming, daily. Teaching full-time would pay my bills and then some. I could move out, get my own apartment right now. Tempting. But spending all my time on that would leave none for writing. Moving out immediately isn’t worth that sacrifice.
How do I not lose sight of the dream, the long-term goals, while still providing for my immediate needs? Do I have to choose between them? Is there a way to do both?
Here’s where the bifocals analogy comes in. Focusing only on the now would preclude following God’s will for my life and take away my sense of long-term purpose. But focusing only on the dream in the distance might make me the bum in my mom’s basement.
So I said yes to tutoring. I started working with my students this week. They’re a lot of fun, each one different. Yes, it is a time investment, especially now as I scramble to understand lesson plans, curriculum, and educational philosophy, but I think that will level out with time. Other than that, it takes care of my immediate bills and also leaves some time for writing, which is where I want to be in 20 years (though hopefully less J). It’s a bifocal job.
In Matthew 6, Jesus weighs the near-far tension like this: “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.”
I read this to mean: don’t run after temporary things—don’t cop out on the dream of being a writer for the security of an immediate teaching job. This doesn’t mean ignoring the necessity of immediate things—even God knows we need them. Just put him first. First. Put the farsighted bifocal on top. He’ll take care of the rest.