Talking with some very dear friends this week (who may be reading this now), I was reminded of the importance of remembering the defining moments in your life, especially as you make decisions about how to best thrive in the future. Dan Reiland, one of our church leaders whom I greatly respect, says that everything that you have to offer (if you want it to be effective) must be grounded in your conviction and your calling. Staying focused on what you’ve been called to do will help keep you on track as you strive to influence others and attain all that God has for you.
This reminds me of two stories that really define who I am…
I was fifteen years old and on a Christian retreat in the Georgia mountains. I had spent the last year in what I’d say was a pretty significant spiritual awakening process in my life. I was learning to play the guitar and discovering the wonder of serving in worship ministry. There was a moment one evening during that retreat where all of the guys participating were gathered into a room and we sat in front of a four-foot wooden carving of the crucifix while the gruesome details of crucifixion were read to us. I had grown up hearing the story of Jesus’ death, but not like this. The group leader went to great extent to show us the physical suffering that Jesus endured on the cross. The crucifixion is without a doubt the most cruel method of execution ever conceived, and Jesus stepped into history and died by it.
After the meeting was over, there were a few of us left in the room lingering and thinking about what we had heard and continuing to worship and pray. I remember standing in front of that cross and saying to God “Just tell me what you want me to do!” I had grown tired of the hiding and doubting and guessing. I just wanted a straight answer. I got one.
I didn’t hear a voice, but what I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that God answered me. When I asked, “what do you want me to do?”, He said, “I want you to worship me.” That was all. Just worship. Despite the simplicity, I knew exactly what that meant. That moment started me on a path that I’m still on today.
Fast forward about three years. I was part of a mission trip team to Thailand that made a stop in Hawaii for about a week to help with building houses and a church seminar. The past months had been for me an even more significant spiritual awakening. I was finding purpose and getting clarity on this thing called worship in a school I was in, and it was all coming to a head in the closing weeks of that trip. I went to my leaders and asked for their help in a special marking moment that I was feeling prompted to do. I’ll never forget it.
My good friends and mentors Pete, Ken and Richie and I drove in a big white Ford van to a secluded beach area away from any people. We found a good spot and pulled off to the side and walked down into the water. I’ll never forget looking out into the vast Pacific ocean on that gray day, the turquoise-gray water swelling warm at my waist. In those waters on that summer day I was baptized with my dear friends giving witness. It was a big moment for me, I wanted to drive a stake into the ground and say that I had given myself fully to God for good. No turning back from here. No more oscillating, no more playing around with what he was calling me to do. I was all in.
There are moments and people who shape our lives. I am who I am today because of Pastor Butch, Danny, Pete, John and Miles. These moments sit like dots along the graph of your life’s path and when you connect the dots, you get an idea of what shape you are supposed to be and what direction you should be headed toward. It’s never a bad thing to look back across the years and make sure where you are (and more importantly where you’re going) fits in with the pattern God has been drawing for your life.
What are your moments?