“I think the word moment would work better than minute in this instance.”
I’ve mentioned before that the Lovely Lady acts as an unofficial editor, a filter of sorts, for me in my frequent ventures into writing. Most mornings after I post one of these essays, I find an email in my inbox which bears her return address.
The terse, one word subject helps me to be prepared for the bad news. All it says is Blog.
As much as I love reading her notes (she always ends them with an I love you and, for some reason I kind of like that), I don’t want to be told I’ve made an error.
This is one error I make frequently. Time, it seems is of little import to me in real life, so I regard it almost as lightly in my writing. That said, I do know the difference between the two words.
A minute is a set period of time—sixty seconds—one sweep of the second hand around the circumference of an analog clock. It is not some ethereal, arbitrary concept hanging out in eternity, available to fit into whatever parameters I wish it to be stuffed.
Not so, the moment. Moments, I can elongate to make them last as long as I wish. On the other hand, I may also abbreviate them to my heart’s content.
The definition of a moment is, quite simply, a short period of time. It is a fuzzy, arbitrary unit of measurement, determined by the perspective through which it is viewed.
A moment in history could, when viewed from the perspective of modern-day man, be a century. If we speak of a moment of decision, that instant upon which rests all of life for one person or even a civilization, it might be merely a fraction of a second.
We get to define what a moment is.
And in defining moments, we have a view of our past.
Somehow, I don’t think that is what most readers expected when they read the title to this little essay. To most of us, the term defining moment has always meant a time period which determines who we are and the path our life will take.
A defining moment is one in which our destiny hangs in the balance and any choice we make will either make or break us.
Somehow, I don’t like the idea of a period of time defining who I am. Such a concept means that we are swept along at the whim of events, without direction—without a guiding truth—at the mercy of all about us.
I’d rather be defining moments in the light of our faith—pointing out where we were tempted to leave the path, but avoided the snare—recognizing the attacks of an unseen enemy who was powerless to sway us from our resolve—identifying the time period in which we served as we have been served.
The moments are defined, rather than them defining us. Oh, there are, without question, moments we can point to where decisions were made—decisions which have changed us for all time; The moment we were drawn to belief in a Savior, the moment we determined to follow close after Him, even moments we passed important landmarks along the way—marriages, births, deaths.
The moments don’t define us. Our Creator does.
Before even a single day of our life was lived, every moment was known to Him. Every moment, even those so-called defining ones. (Psalm 139:16)
Do you know where the word moment came from? It is derived from the Latin momentum, which is the equivalent of—well, of our word—momentum. (It also happens to come from the Middle English word, momentum, but we probably should stop beating that horse now, shouldn’t we?)
Moments always move forward. Time runs in only one direction for us. We can make a difference by what we do with this moment we are in and with future moments—nothing more.
We move forward. With no guarantee of a single minute ahead of us, we still have this moment in which we live, right now.
It may turn out to be the thinnest sliver of a moment ever cut from time, or it might be a great big wedge of a moment. We don’t know.
I want to define the moments in which I live. I want to be able to look back on every one of them and see that the momentum with which they were filled was, to quote Eugene Peterson, a long obedience in the same direction.
Every moment filled with purpose—His purpose.
For You, a thousand years are as a passing day,
as brief as a few night hours.
(Psalm 90:4 ~ NLT)
Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly it’s part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.
(Day by Day ~ Lina Sandell ~ Swedish poet/hymnwriter ~ 1832-1902)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.