Friday, September 11, 2009

Watershed moments

9-11.  I've mentioned a time or two that one of my gifts (or party tricks, if you prefer) is that I remember dates.  And phone numbers, for that matter, though now that I only use my cell (mobile, as they say in Britian), and have numbers plugged into it, I'm much worse at phone numbers.  Still, dates are set in concrete in my brain, for better or worse.  So you can imagine my own surprise that I forgot what August 27th--the anniversary of my dad's death.  And September 11th? When I think of it, first I remember that it's the birthdate of one of my college roommates (I had about 10 different college roommates, which might be a record for a person who never lived in a sorority).  My friend Karen (as opposed to Karin, a different roomie) was born on Sept. 11.  Before 9/11, which everyone who was alive instantly remembers (unless they have Alzheimers, in which case they don't remember their own name let alone the date).  Unlucky is Karen who shares the day with such an infamous event.  Like those who were born on November 22--a date I remember as well and not only for JFK's assassination but also as the date CS Lewis and AW Tozer died (though not together, in case you were wondering), and the day before my friends' Sally and Janet have birthdays.  I'm just saying... my memory may go the way of my mother's but not yet, people--JESK, I'm talking to you!

The thing is, though there are these dates in our lives that are watershed moments.  I remember the sunny August day in 1977 when I was lifeguarding at the public pool when Elvis died.  The news snaked its way around the pool via the other lifeguards; since I was at the deep end of the long pool, I was just about the last to know, but it was obvious something was going on, by the conversations at each shift change.  I wasn't a fan of Elvis--I was more a John Denver, Neill Diamond, James Taylor person--and by the time I was old enough to pay attention to music, Elvis had moved into his white, sequined jumpsuit phase, which I found a bit ridiculous (even when a skinny John Travolta pulled it off in Saturday Night Fever).  But Elvis's death was a big moment--the death of a legend, even to me.  And I remember when the Challenger space shuttle exploded in January of 1986.  By unhappy coincidence I was working at Washington High School in Tacoma and every television in the school was turned on to watch an educator fly into space that day.  So every high school student not playing hookey or legitimately absent watched as the shuttle blew up just 17 seconds or so into the flight.  I went home soon after that and pulled out the tiny black and white TV we had stuck in a closet in our dorm apartment, set it up on a couch and pulled Beve in to watch the explosion replayed over and over throughout the evening, almost as if it wouldn't explode if we watched it often enough.

And when Beve and J stopped at Haggens, a grocery store, that early Tuesday morning while I was trying to get the girls off to school, calling to tell us to turn on the TV, I watched almost without stopping the rest of the week.  I was sitting there listening to Katie Couric and Matt Lauer speak with a smoke plumed Tower behind them on screen, and watched as a second plane flew into a second tower, held my breath as, in their raw footage, they caught people jumping from windows before turning the camera away, and a while later, as, one after the other, those towers crumpled onto themselves down to earth. 

Watershed moments.  Moments we'll never forget.  Like the four personal dates in my life--May 12th, July 25, March 20, and January 20.  Dates that created my family.  These were the big moments for me personally, the days that changed my world, and perhaps the world beyond me.  None of us know how our children will impact the world beyond our front doors. Every day they march off to rub shoulders with others.  Every day one way or another, we're making a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with.  I don't know how God measures dates, I really don't.  But I know this.  Watershed moments aren't merely the big dates, or the traumatic ones.  I think in God's economy the most significant moments are the ones where He is present, where He speaks and we know, and we are changed.  Maybe they're when we get outside ourselves, leave our comfort zones to touch others in simple but eternal ways.

I have a nephew who is on his way to Africa to use the gifts and skills God has given him athletically to touch the lives of kids who want to play soccer.  Using what he is and what he can do well to impact the world beyond his neighborhood.  Pretty amazing to think of.  We often think that serving God--particularly cross-culturally--means some kind of sacrifice of self and of interests.  And of course it does. But God is always the smartest One in the room, so it makes sense that He'd use what we are, what we can do, to touch others.  Who knows what moments on L's trip might be watershed moments for some of those kids, or maybe just a single one.  Soccer as a vehicle to move a person into the Kingdom.  Talk about watershed moments.

And L isn't the only one doing such work.  Everyday, in fact, we have the opportunity--just by being ourselves, our forgiven, sanctified selves--to participate in watershed moments with others.  To be present when God Himself comes calling, to be present when another human being answers that call.  What a privilege, what a responsibility.  What great joy.

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