a defining moment

Posted: 14 April, 2016 in My stuff
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Defining moments -definitionI didn’t grow up in church.  I do however remember the day of my christening.  I was about three years old.

My parents had neglected to have me ‘done’ when I was a baby.  We were staying with friends in Brisbane.  They had a son about my age, perhaps a little older.  His name was Jack, and he was to be christened the next morning.  Over a few beers too many my father decided to make it a double-header.  Jack and I would be Christened together.  Each set of parents being god-parents to the others’ kid.

My memory is a bit vague.  I clearly remember playing with Jack’s toy cars. It wasn’t so much the cars but the glorious red and yellow wooden garage with a little wind-up lift to get the cars onto the roof that had my attention.  When it was time to go to church I wanted to stay.  If there was a heaven I was already there with Jack’s garage!

The church was up the street and around the corner.  We walked. There was a low post and rail fence around the building.  Apart from that I remember nothing of the Christening itself.  Nothing about the building.   Nothing about the event.  Nothing about the inevitable party afterwards where more beers were to be consumed.

I do remember the garage.

Christening is  one of those defining moments.  If mine was it was for all the wrong reasons and leading in the wrong direction.

Our lives are marked out by defining moments.  From birth to death we travel along a path marked with events.  A string of moments, celebrations, tragedies, milestones, gains and losses – signposts that shape us.  These signposts bring definition to our lives.   Without these signposts we lack some definition, or  we define ourselves by what is missing, by what hasn’t happened.

 

I went to my Christening, but I missed it.  It was supposed to be my welcome into the community of faith.  It was more a recognition that religion was an afterthought. An unequal blend of belief and superstition, an insincere hat-tip in the direction of  the church and a god who was irrelevant to the day-to-day lives of the family I grew up in.   It was doing the right thing according to the practices of the day.  A ticking of boxes.

That was the atmosphere I grew up in.

It is surprising then that here I am however many years later and I  define myself by my faith.  Obviously there have been some more defining moments over that time.

 

I want to share one of those defining moments with you.  Then I want to ask you about what moments have defined you.  Then I want to dig just a little deeper.

 

The defining moment that I will to share was unplanned and unexpected.  It was no big deal but it made a big difference.  In so many ways it was wrong and certainly not the sort of thing I would be wanting to encourage for others, yet it was right for me at the time.  It is the sort of thing that many of my friends would question and quite rightly so.  I, however, mark it  as a defining moment.

I was in church one Sunday night.

Someone spoke.  About what I do not remember.

At the end they gave an invitation to decide to Jesus.

I walked to the front of the church in tears.

I accepted the invitation.

That was a defining moment for me.  It is one of many defining moments. It was both notable and cringe-worthy at the same time.  I have de-constructed it a dozen times and re-constructed just as many.  I was young.  I was vulnerable.  I was tired. I was an outsider wanting to be an insider.  It was my emotion overriding my intellect.

It was all of those things.  It was none of those things.  There was more and I can’t quite tell you what the more was.

What I do know is this.  Rightly or wrongly at that meeting I threw my lot in with Jesus and his ragtag bunch of followers.  I had done it publicly.  There were witnesses.  They had expectations.  I had expectations.  While that event did not change me radically it set me on a path that has challenged and changed me more than I would ever have imagined.  A path that continues to challenge and change me now.

Now, it’s your turn.

What has been a defining moment in your life?  It might be more than half a lifetime ago.  I might be last week.  What happened to you?  What decision did you make that shaped every decision that came after it?  Was that moment life-giving or life taking? Having defined yourself one way do you feel the need to redefine yourself now?

Now go and make a cup of tea and sit for while and consider those questions.

 

tea cup

Those moments that make us rarely happen when we are comfortable and contented.  They usually happen when our life, if not our world, has been somehow turned up-side-down or pulled inside out.

It is when we –

come to the end of our tether

reached rock bottom

become stuck

have to make a hard decision

don’t know who we are

don’t know why we are here

 

Have you ever met someone who has had a truly tragic experience yet, when they tell their story, they tell you that the thing that was the worst thing was the actually best thing that had ever happened to them?

The car accident

The loss of a life partner

The debilitating injury

Bankruptcy

The tragedy and the decisions they made as they worked through it become those moments of definition, those life shaping, character building, focus giving moments.

 

Defining moments do three things.

One, defining moments reveal something.  Usually they reveal that we are not as good as we think we are.  There are those moments that reveal to us our own blind spots.  Those bits of ourselves that we don’t see, or chose not to see.  This is our shadow self, our little self, that is always there.  While we think of moments that define us as being something that happens to us it is actually our decisions in those moments that define us.  Some of our decisions diminish us as human beings.  Other decisions see us grow.  Growth is always brought about by courageous decisions on our part.  Doing something differently is always a courageous decision.

Two, defining moments test what we believe.  We always do what we believe is the best.  Always.  When what we do brings us unstuck we eventually question what we are doing and why we are doing it.  In the end that leads us questioning what we believe.  Questioning what we believe, especially for those of us who hold to a faith tradition, does not come easily.  Most of us have been told that questioning, doubt by another name, is the opposite of faith.  I would suggest that certainty is the opposite of faith, especially if it is of the obstinate kind.  Doubt, entered into with courage and determination to find truth, actually refines faith giving more clarity and purpose to our lives.  Again it is the decisions we make that define us.  Decisions about not merely what we believe but how we live out what we believe in our everyday lives.

Three, defining moments shape us.  Our lives are made up of the sum total of all the decisions we have made so far.  We are the product of our decisions.  The same decision made over and over again becomes a habit.  A habit becomes the way we do things.  The way we do things is how other people recognise us and eventually how we recognise ourselves.  ‘Brian is always late’, say my friends.  And it’s true.  I am easily distracted.  bright and shiny things get my attention.  Why?  because that has become my habit.  I could simply say, ‘Well, that just the way I am, god made me that way’.

Or I could change.

I could decide to focus on one thing at a time.  I could do the thing I am supposed to be doing instead of doing something else.  I have so shaped my life by my habits and I have developed my habits by my making the same decisions over an over again.

If we grow the most when times are uncomfortable then  why is it that do all in our power to make our lives more comfortable.  More secure.  Less challenging.  More predictable.

 

Two things that have brought me growth as  a human being – following Jesus and doing life with other followers of Jesus.

There is a phrase that is not found in the Bible.  Jesus comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.  I have found that true.  In reading the stories of Jesus that are recorded in the Bible I have never found a ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’.  Not even close.  I have found the story of a man who challenges me to the core of my being.  A man who, across twenty centuries, challenges my mind and my heart, my beliefs and my actions.  I am uncomfortable when I read the Gospels.  I am uncomfortable when I sense his presence.  I follow him not because he leads beside the still waters but more that he walks with me through the valley of the shadow.  He calls me to make the often time hard decisions.  He calls me to seek truth, to be authentically me, to trust that there is more going on than readily meets the eye, and that more open up to me a life of counter-intuitive service where thee more I give my life away the more seem to find my purpose and satisfaction.

Doing life with  other followers of Jesus keeps me accountable.  The more we recognise that we are all in this together the bigger and deeper, and wider, and more colourful this becomes.  I am most blessed not so much by those who comfort me (although that has been a huge blessing in my life) but by those who challenge me.  As one of the letters of the new testament says, we need to be ‘speaking the truth in love’.  When i have good people around me who love me enough to tell me truth about myself, even when they know it is going to hurt me, that is when I am most challenged.  That is when I am more likely to grow.

My ‘decision to follow Jesus’ that night in church was a defining moment in that it set me on a journey that has continued to change my life to this day.  I am certain that there is more change to come and that I will have to make the same decision over and over again. There is more of my shadow-self that needs to be revealed to me.  There is more of my belief that is yet to be tested.  My life is still being shaped by a hand that is not my own, but a hand that I am learning to trust.  My part is to make the decisions that will that will work to bring that emerging shape into being.

Will you join me on this journey?  Can I join you on yours?

 

Burning Bush

 

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. I read this and blogged my thoughts on my own definitive moment. It is interesting how they are such clear moments in contrast to the rest of the mess of memories in my head.

  2. Greg Fahey says:

    Defining moments – the thing about having anxiety is that you remember every bad decision, mistake or failure that you’ve ever made, and you don’t forgive yourself for them. You know me, and you know some of the more spectacular ones I’ve made. What does that define?

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