"Long Obedience in the Same Direction"
Updated: Oct 11, 2022
“The essential thing 'in heaven and earth' is ... that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
Most psychologists agree that our deepest need in life is found in our search for meaning. Viktor Fankl, an Austrian Neurologist, endured more suffering than most of us can fathom. Viktor lost his wife, his father, his mother and his brother in German concentration camps during the second World War. He survived the war after enduring 3 grueling years between 4 different concentration camps. While his journey home is an incredible one, perhaps more shocking than his own survival, was the preservation of his grip on meaning. In fact, he argues it was his grip on meaning that preserved his life - not the other way around.
It is our grip on life’s meaning that draws out the radiance of life’s colors. As controversial as this might sound, I don’t believe any of us will stumble into the good life. The abundant life is one that is intentionally chosen, and deliberately lived. Of course, this can only be done once we have discovered life’s meaning.
Assuming for a moment that life’s deepest meaning is found in the invitation to love and be loved… If we want to experience the full radiance of life, then we must prepare ourselves for long journeys and deep investments. True love is unhurried, enduring, and vulnerable. Superficial friendships, and short-term relationships will never offer us the meaning our souls are searching for.
Surprisingly this principle doesn’t just apply to our love for people. This applies to our passions, our creative expressions, and our vocational callings. “The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is… that there should be long obedience in the same direction…” I think this is the long run that Friedrich Nietzsche was referring to. In fact, Pastor and Theologian Eugene Peterson wrote a book expounding on this idea in the context of the Christian life. The most precious things in life are those things that we’ve invested our time, and treasure in…over the long run. In the words of Wendell Berry, “Invest in the millennium, plant sequoias.”
In the economy of God’s Kingdom we find a paradox. Abundance is only found when we empty ourselves out in committed love. Life’s radiant colors are drawn out through the crimson drops of self-giving love. There’s a reason Jesus said the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed - it is unhurried, and steady, but therein lies the beauty.
Unfortunately life is rarely lived like that, today. It is often lived in the “tyranny of the urgent.” Andy Crouch says we often prefer impact over transformation. The problem (as he describes it) is that impact involves incredible force, but is often short-lived. Transformation requires less force, over a longer period of time, but the results are enduring.
At Lead Collective, we are pursuing enduring transformation. This requires a long obedience in the same direction. We want to invite you into that mission with us. Whether you have time, or treasure, we’re asking that you would invest it steadily, over the long run. Hang in there with us. We’re not going anywhere.
We may not see the harvest overnight, but the harvest is abundant, and eternal… and when our eyes behold its glory, it will take our breath away.
Come plant sequoias with us.