Last month, our young church celebrated its 5th-year anniversary. As I sat in a special Sunday-morning meeting, I especially enjoyed a centerpiece of that service: some of our members had collaborated on a longer-than-usual slide/video show of images from the whole five-year history of the church. Naturally, this show brought back many memories for most of the congregation. Since I have only been in this body for about two years, many of the in-jokes and images were not familiar to me, however. I didn’t know everyone, and hadn’t been there for many of the events that flashed before me on the big screen. But I really enjoyed the presentation anyways.
As I sat there looking at images of brothers and sisters partaking in life together–funny times, sad times, youth retreats, Sunday meetings, and church picnics and the like–I was struck with this thought: “Our relationships are made of piled-up memories.” This thought has only become more deep and wide as I’ve mused on it since. It’s practically cliche to say that “life is lived in the moments” or “memories make up our relationships.” But, for me anyways, this truism has gained new power.
See, I’m a confirmed “Martha.” Left to myself, I am all about the tasks and goals of life. I tend to maximize the big picture and long term goals, and minimize the mundane, ordinary, “normal” days and events of my life. The significance of giving a cool cup of water to a weary pilgrim in the name of the Lord, calling someone to see how they are doing, or bringing a meal to a sick friend doesn’t usually break into my consciousness. I do these things, and then I do the next things, and seldom stop to consider what these things mean to God and others.
Perhaps it was because I hadn’t lived many of the moments I was seeing, but as I sat watching the Church’s anniversary slide show, I saw moment after moment pass by and thought, “How many such slide shows have I viewed? How many years have I seen this kind of portrayal of the life of the church?” There were shots of friendship (groups of gals and guys hugging in front of the camera), shots of service (moving folks, serving at soup kitchens, serving in outreaches), shots of funny moments (face painting, relay races, and mud wrestling), and shots of profound moments (worship, teaching, and quiet times). Each shot was a single moment in time. I didn’t know many of the people involved in them, but somehow in that very detachment something clicked: I saw that, cumulatively, these moments had added up to form the strong, vibrant relationships of the church family in which I am privileged to partake now, day to day.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this since. I’ve been seeing that all those days of teaching and training my six kids during the homeschool years were used by God to build the strong, young, dedicated Christians that my kids are today, by His grace. They can’t remember so many of the details about those years that I do. I know, because I’ve asked them. They were the kids, though, and I was the managing adult who wrestled with questions like “which curriculum is best?” and “how will I get Latin done?” They just did the next thing that I told them to do–or bucked it–and so the moments of our school years unfolded. They acted, reacted, and responded in each moment, and so did I. And now I see so clearly that God–invisibly but surely–shaped them us all into the people we became through those moments layered one upon the other. I see afresh the opportunity that you younger moms, who are currently walking through those homeschooling years, have to live one day at a time, one moment at a time, unto God as you homeschool. I don’t mean that it’s “all on you” to live each moment perfectly. But moments are easier to grasp than years! Moment by moment, you and I can ask God for the grace we need to overcome sin and to mirror God’s love, grace, and power to our kids, and know that those moments will be the shaping influence that God uses to grow them into the adults that He intends them to be. Jesus Himself taught us to live in “today” and let tomorrow take care of itself (Matthew 6:34).
So, this insight about the power of moments applies to churches. It applies to homeschooling and parenting. It certainly has helped me be more conscious of little ways that I react and respond to my husband, Scott, after 32 years of marriage. But, I’ve also been surprised to see that it applies to our walk with God. Daily quiet times can become dry, every day, and rote. (This is less common when we keep in Scripture and mine the “unsearchable riches of Christ” daily.) Even when they are, though, consider the difference between letting daily devotions lapse altogether and making the daily decision to have a moment with your Heavenly Father. Many of life’s moments are so ordinary. But when those ordinary moments with others (including God!) are layered upon one another, day after day, week after week, and year after year, they simply are the essence of our relationships! If we let those moments go, we build nothing. If we hold on to them, though, we build something solid. As we see God answer prayer after prayer, as we watch him meet need after need, as we receive forgiveness time after time–the moments pile up. How else could we discover for ourselves the rock-solid nature of God’s proven character, the omnipresent comfort of His sustaining grace, the deep, thirst-quenching pools of His forgiveness and acceptance, yes, and the soaring joys of mountaintop moments but by spending time, day in and day out, with our God and Savior?
Moments are powerful things. Layered moments really do form relationships of all kinds (good and bad). As with papier mache crafts, each fragile, paper-thin, soggy layer dries to form rock-hard, resilient things that (leaving the analogy behind) will last into eternity. Since seeing this, I’m more careful with the moments, I take more notice of them, and I’m more thankful that God directs each and every one so that we “…beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor 3:18 (ESV)