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Receptivity and offering: Moments

Lynne Baab • Monday May 16 2022

Receptivity and offering: Moments

“An illusion haunts us that a long duration – as a year, a decade, a century – is valuable. But an old French sentence says, ‘God works in moments.’ We ask for long life, but ’tis deep life or grand moments that signify. Let the measure of Time be spiritual, not mechanical. . . . Moments of insight, of fine personal relation, a smile, a glance – what ample borrowers of eternity they are!”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist, and poet

“The new life into which we are baptized is lived out in days, hours, and minutes. God is forming us into a new people. And the place of that formation is in the small moments of today.”
—Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary (InterVarsity Press, 2016)

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. In his words above, he points to the richness of some moments which are “borrowers of eternity.” Those memorable moments lift our hearts, giving us a sense of something beyond this life. I love the specifics he mentions – “moments of insight, of fine personal relation, a smile, a glance.” Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest, emphasizes that Christian transformation happens in small moments. We are being transformed into the image of Jesus, in community with the body of Christ, and we might tend to place the most significance on big events and decisions. Rev. Warren wants us to think about the small moments where transformation happens.

I want to offer to God the moments in my life that seem small, understanding that those moments come to me as gifts from God. And I want to receive God’s presence in those small moments.

I just experienced a small moment. As I was pondering what to say about those two quotations about moments that have come to me as gifts, I noticed a new magazine that I had absent-mindedly brought into my home office. I could hear my husband, Dave, the talented artist you get to see most weeks in my blog posts, rummaging around in the kitchen preparing his breakfast. I wondered if he might want to read the new magazine with his breakfast, so I stopped pondering and took the magazine out to the dining room where he will eat breakfast in a few minutes. I am back in my office, so I have no idea whether or not he will look at the magazine with his breakfast. But he can if he wants to.

There was a tiny moment of inner battle. I had just settled myself into my comfortable desk chair, and I didn’t want to get back up. But I didn’t want him to miss out on something he might enjoy. Love won that very small battle.

I did the right thing. I can offer that moment to God, saying something like, “You taught me to love. You gave me a husband who loves me. Thank you that you gave me enough love for him to do a very small favor for him, one that he might never know I did. Please help me to show love when the battle is stronger and the consequences greater. I want to give you the small and big moments of my life.”

Maybe that small moment will play a role in God’s transformation of me into a person who can love consistently. Maybe my awareness of that moment, and my prayer about it, is an equal source of transformation. Perhaps my hesitation about taking that magazine to the dining room shows how much more transformation I need!

God gives us pleasure and joy in small moments as we notice delicate flowers, racing clouds, the touch of a friend, or a word of encouragement at the right time. I find it so easy to ignore those gifts because I am preoccupied with frustrations, fears, or other absorbing thoughts or emotions. Sometimes I don’t let myself relish the joy of those moments because it doesn’t seem right to experience pleasure when others are suffering. I wrote last week about and-ness,” God’s call to us to affirm that two things can be true at the same time. I can experience joy and pleasure in a certain moment, even while I am sad about something else. I need God to transform me into a person who can live in the reality of each moment, holding onto both gratitude and sadness at the same time.

(Next seek: attention. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

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