At one time, one of my favorites television shows was “Chuck”, a pop-culture sprinkled dramedy about an nerdy accidental spy who gets the girl. Chuck became a spy by inadvertantly looking at a sequence of classified images transmitted from his old college buddy, a real spy. This sequence of images uploaded a comprehensive database of spy knowledge in his head. At crucial times in the narrative, Chuck will “flash”. His eyes will roll back in his head and he will download a crucial set of information into his memory cache, like how to do kung fu just before the bad guy brings the pain.
“Over the years I have come to recognize that the work often knows more than I do.”
– Madeleine L’Engle
I love the flash metaphor. It is what happens to me when I sit up in bed at three in the morning with the compulsive need to write down an idea. This late night need has been an ongoing problem for years.
My wife is used to my overnight adventures. She’ll ask, “Are you okay?” while I hop up searching for my glasses and a pen to preserve my unfettered vision on an envelope or scrap of kid homework. With four kids and a long todo list, my life is crazy, and the middle of the night is a prime time for reflection.
Yet it is the very craziness that fuels me. It is the divine discontent that drives the leader and the artist, or anyone with a vision.
A flash of an idea is the essence of revelation, of God permitting a glimpse of the Divine Self.
It is a gift. If you’ve ever had a sudden rush of an idea, or read a book, or sat in a dark theater and had the thrilling moment of hyperreal wow when you feel you’ve been given a glimpse into an alternate universe of hidden truth, then thank God.
It is, as Andy Stanley says, the beginning of vision.
Anyone who is emotionally involved about the way things are in light of the way they believe things should be, is a candidate for vision. Vision forms in the hearts of those who are dissatisfied with the status quo. – Andy Stanley
Dissatisfaction with the status quo. This is the crucial part. When I was younger, I sometimes confused discontent with anger, a righteous indignation at perceived and real slights to the way things oughta be. Indignation served me well, too. Much of my first two books were written that way. But to call it anger is to mischaracterize it. The flash is actually a gift, a revelation of insight that comes at a crucial time.
We cannot always control when the moment of revelation appears.
It may be when you finally have quiet and opportunity for reflection, after the kids are in bed and the computer is turned off. It may be in the middle of a hectic moment, but triggered by a memory or an action. The only thing we can control is the ability to recognize the idea and develop the practice of capturing it down before it blows away.
If you don’t know yourself well, you may not be harnessing this gift.
At various times, I have let mine waste. It is the job of the leader and the artist, and anyone with a vision, to learn to recognize it as the gift that it is, and to capture it.
How do you handle your flashes?