Reginald S. Screen

What is Your Picture of the Future?

Romans 4:17 ESV: “as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’ —in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Language is powerful! How we “see” things and one another is also powerful. As I wrestle with events in my own life and events that are happening around our nation and world, I am left to grapple with how to experience “breakthrough” and bring forth something that honors the Lord.

It has been said that if one wants to create a different culture then one has to bring forth new “language” that is designed to help people see differently. This new language is not one that merely describes the problem (which it seems like most of us are accustomed to do), but is one that boldly declares, in the face of circumstantial denial, what will be. This new language replaces, in essence, the descriptive language and transforms how a situation appears or occurs. Zaffron and Logan (2009, pg 69) give the following example on how people can bring their perceived future into the present through language:

 Does money make you happy? Most people say no, but the answer is more complicated. Take two families: One made $200,000 last year; the second, $50,000. Next year, both expect to earn $100,000. The first will be unhappy, and the second, happy. Why? Because it’s not the actual money you have today that makes you happy or unhappy; it’s the money you expect you’ll have, believe you’ll have, hope you’ll have, or fear you’ll have that shapes your experience of money right now. The first family will cut back, maybe sell their home. The second will buy a bigger house, take a vacation, and get a new car.

A universal picture becomes clear in this example: people live into the future they see coming at them, not the actual future they’ll get to someday.

The point is the actual expected cut/raise may be a year away. It may happen or it may not happen, but in the minds of the families, the future, though 12 months away, impacts how they feel, think and act now. Their future has become their present day reality. This “default future” happens to us more than we know. In fact, the “default future” (the future we see coming at us) and not our “actual future” (which we will not experience until we get there) is what most of us are living from right now, and we are not even aware of it.

So, how are we to deal with the default future? We are to use language to create new pictures with the goal of living into these new pictures: Future based language. Stay with me, please! Let’s look at Dr. Martin Luther King for a moment (He was a master of pulling people from their default future into a different space using “Future Based Language.”). The default future for blacks was pregnant with racial segregation. Jim Crow laws were in full effect, along with over 150 years of history that had concretized what appeared to be a racial reality. Then along comes Dr. Martin Luther King. He “describes” the current situation and then uses future-based language to create a new future of possibility that will replace what people “saw coming at them.” Go back and listen to Dr. Kings “I HAVE A DREAM” speech again and you will see how well he posits the the “new future.” Dr. King’s speeches inspired and motived people to think, feel and act differently in the “now.” Listen to how he describes reality and then replaces what “people saw coming” (I have also included a link for a PDF version).   (https://www.archives.gov/files/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf)

So, what’s the point? What do you “see coming” towards you? Are you using language in a way that creates a future worth living into, even though your circumstances seem to say that you will have a negative future? (Before you answer that question, look at how you are actually thinking, feeling and acting.) Like Dr. King, I believe the world is waiting for someone to not just describe the problem, but to declare a future worth living into, even in the face of circumstantial denial, and even when situations seem gloomy and drab. My friends, what is your “I HAVE A DREAM SPEECH” that must replace “I HAVE A NIGHTMARE?