No Vision – no Courage

Where there is no vision, the people are discouraged. Pro 29:18

A little bit more than seven years ago my older son Toby had a terrible accident. These last years have been a journey of healing, reconciliation, faith. Many hours have been spent for him, with him, about him – in Canada, where the accident took place, and in Switzerland, where we live.

I remember the night and the place we heard of the accident. Toby was in a year abroad, going to school in one of our churches. That evening I was in the church office with our pastor, doing some administrative work. Next door our youth met – and with them our younger son Joel.

When I heard about the accident through my pastor – he led the conversation with the people from Canada and slowly filled me in on the details – I had to talk to Joel. His reaction was: “Toby is not going to die. He has a word that he will raise the dead, and has not done that yet.”

What he said was so much to the core of the situation: he expressed faith, had a vision, but he also understood why this was happening. One reason: to prevent Toby from reaching his destiny.

Today I want to pick out one aspect of this: vision.

We did concentrate and had to concentrate very much on Toby for the following years – our other children were somewhat left out. Now, you have to understand – we have very special, wonderful children.

Joel is an artist at heart. Over the years he had to undergo the typical career of a Swiss boy: schooling, apprenticeship, and eventually work. And it became more and more apparent, that for him – bright and intelligent as he is – it was not easy to cope with grades and expectations. In all this he did not get the necessary attention from our side – and failed.

Joel’s vision perished. More and more he became the embodiment of the verse above. Even when he gave his life back to the Lord, he still was not able to regain a vision for his life.

Over the last years we as parents had come to learn that there is more possibilities in life than the usual way of doing things.

Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to. Alan Keightley

My own story lends to this nicely:

When I gave my life to the Lord, I had just started my education as computer programmer. Soon the Lord called me into ministry, but like David I found myself back before my computer the next day. And the next. And so on. So I decided to make a career instead, and God had to shake me and wake me up years after – and he used the meantime to prepare me. Not the usual way of bible school. No paper giving me the right to hang my shingle.

Jon Acuff has a new book: “Start“. In it he shows us the five phases of a life:

  1. Learning
  2. Editing
  3. Mastering
  4. Harvesting
  5. Guiding

In my life I am experiencing the harvesting and starting the guiding part. Guiding as in fathering.

It struck me when Jon pointed out the fact that these five steps were no longer in function of time as they used to be, starting at 20 and taking a decade each. And I think he is absolutely right. And how is that?

For a long time, people lived without a vision – and even more devastating – with nobody to instill vision into them. Haggai was asked to write the vision down on a big sign – history’s first bill board – such that people could see and read it even when running by. Young people tend to run. Nothing can be fast enough.

Who then should be Haggai in there lives? This is a typical fatherly role.

A father, guiding and instilling vision into the life of his son – be it natural or spiritual, or even better, both – helps drive out discouragement.

My son Joel lives with us again for a short while now. In this time I have the opportunity to instill vision into his heart, to do what I failed to do before. And with enthusiasm he is looking into the future. Here a glimpse of it – take an ear full and have a peek (and come back in the future). And no, he has no manager yet!

This is a wonderful illustration of what I believe God is restoring the fivefold ministry for. People need fathers and mothers. They need at least somebody that believes in them, but also has a guiding role, instilling vision, covering their back, providing wisdom to complement their enthusiasm and zeal. Teaching them the ways of God. Turning their light on.

And you know what happens? Not only my son’s vision is brought forth, not only his discouragement is driven out – it backfires! And it is great.

This is the time when God turns the hearts of the fathers to their sons and the hearts of the sons to their fathers – just as Malachi prophesied.

This fathering takes out time of the picture in growth. Learning from a father, and valuing the inheritance of the fathers speeds up things: why start all over if you can have a head start? And what greater blessing than seeing your sons and daughters excel and pass you by?


I wrote this piece a while ago. In the meantime, Joel is back home, and Toby is starting his studies as sound engineer. It turned out just as planned. Are we there yet? No, but we are on a good track!

Here a very special gift I got from my son:

Have you experienced likewise? Or do you have any questions? I value your feedback.

About Ralph Rickenbach

Accompanyist | Writer | Son of God — ideation | learner | deliberative | intellection | futuristic