Abraham Lincoln had a defining moment at Gettysburg when he began his speech, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation…” Martin Luther King, Jr. had one August 28, 1963 when rallied a nation with his dream.
President Bush had a less than stellar one on May 1, 2003 when he stood on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln with a banner declaring “Mission Accomplished.”
In my city of Denver, quarterback John Elway had his moment on January 25, 1998 when he led the Denver Broncos to their first Super Bowl championship, beating the defending Green Bay Packers 31-24.
Defining moments are interesting and memorable events. They can cut two ways, either reminding us of courage and greatness or of foolishness and failure. I suspect that all of us desire the first and fear the second.
The truth is all of us are more than one moment in our lives. None of us should be defined by a single event. Each of us are far too complicated to be defined by a single act, whether great or foolish. There is an interesting human tendency to elevate those who have done great things to a god-like status and demonize those caught in foolishness.
Although we are at the front end of 2017, it seems that this is going to be a year of giving space for a fuller story. I don’t want to be a person who defines and pigeon holes others based on a particular moment, whether that is a moment of greatness or of intense foolishness.
Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, reflected, “When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”
In 2017 I want to be a person who knows what it means to both give and receive Amazing Grace.