Wednesday, June 08, 2011

one moment please

Some years ago I worked as a receptionist at a window factory. My very first day at work I attended a seminar for receptionists. In this room surrounded by a hundred or so women who spent their days being the first point of encounter for various companies, I learned the magic of the word "moment." We were taught never to use phrases that referred to seconds or minutes because these measurements were too exact, and we would invariably disappoint some impatient customers who would take the phrase "just a minute" literally. Instead, we mouthed the magic, indefinite word "moment" together, savouring its immeasurable limbo.

The thing about a moment is that while it is a brief but undefined period of time, it usually carries a defining quality. We all remember moments in our lives when things changed. When we changed. I came across two such moments this week that have remained on my mind. One was the unfortunate hit that a player from the Vancouver Canucks hockey team made on Bruin's team member Nathan Horton during a recent play-off game. The hit was late, hard, and rendered Horton limp on the ice. In a moment, both Horton's and Rome's lives were changed in some way. Horton was taken to the hospital with a severe concussion and Aaron Rome was suspended for the rest of the play-offs. One brief moment.

Another defining moment I read about this week was the story of Achan in Joshua 7. During a battle between the Israelites and the town of Ai, a man named Achan came across some very tempting, but forbidden items: a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels. The soldiers had been informed in no uncertain terms that they were not to take any of the plunder from the city for themselves, but in a moment, Achan decided that he would try to get away with it. He snatched the precious goods and hid them in his tent. A short while later, 36 men died in battle because of his disobedience. A brief moment of pleasure cost 36 men their lives.

The things we do in these defining moments reveal a lot about us. The decision to instigate a hit even when the player no longer has the puck, or the decision to take something that is not ours just because we think we can get away with it, indicates that something is rotten deep down at the core of our character. In defining moments like this, our true nature comes to light; it is naive to think that what happens in these moments pops out unexpectedly without warning. No, we build these moments from our daily thoughts, our deepest desires, our secret fears, our buried anger, our hidden insecurities, and our willingness or frigidity in the areas of trust and vulnerability.

Mistakes do happen. Yes, unfortunate and puzzling circumstances sometimes align to produce devastating results, but I believe we are remiss if we do not own the part we play in tipping a moment one way or another. In an age where individualism is the starting point, it is sometimes difficult for us to acknowledge the impact we have on our intentional and accidental communities. Two people exchanging mean words on a bus affect the whole tone of that temporary community, while one teenager giving up his seat for a pregnant woman causes a ripple effect of small acts of kindness. I know; I have seen it.

Let me set my thoughts on those things which are pure, lovely, and good. Let me release my fears and plant faith instead. Let me desire to serve others instead of only myself. Let me find my security in being loved by God. Let my anger be only against injustice and let it never overrule mercy. Let me trust a heavenly Father enough to act like nothing in life is ever outside of his goodness, even when I can't see it. Let me be found in each moment drawing from a deep well of peace and grace. Amen.

This is a photo of my watermelon plants which had their defining moment of appearance yesterday.

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