It seems as though everywhere we’ve looked for the past few days, we’ve been reminded that we just turned a significant page on our calendars. It’s a natural time to contemplate the future and consider what lies ahead. Where I grew up, one of the ways to ensure a productive future was to begin the year with a large helping of collard greens, black-eyed peas, and hog jowls. Some folks declared that God’s blessing wasn’t really assured unless you threw in a healthy serving of cabbage and mingled some stewed tomatoes with your black-eyed peas, and, of course, there had to be cornbread. Now I know some of my country friends’ more refined culinary tastebuds are just watering at the thought of such a special meal, right? God didn’t actually mention any of that in Scripture, but He did encourage us to think ahead regardless of what we have for our New Year’s Day meal. Solomon said it like this:
Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Proverbs 4:25-26 (NKJV)
Different Perspectives ~
Whether we were ready or not, the famous Times Square ball dropped 2019 into history a few days ago. Some, no doubt, were glad to see it go because for them, it was a tough year that felt like it would never end. Just as surely, there were others who were shocked that it had passed by so quickly.
Individual reactions always vary regarding the passage of time, but no matter what our personal perceptions might be, at least one basic, unbiased truth remains. We didn’t experience this block of time that we call a “year” in a huge, chronological lump. It was actually a long series of small, mostly insignificant moments strung together. No one will remember all of the 526,176 minutes that comprised 2019, but everyone will have had some that are unforgettable. Some of its moments will stand out because they had to be painfully endured. Others will join the list of moments we wish we could hold onto forever. What if God intended those moments to be a tool, not to shape our future, but to prepare us for whatever that future might bring?
Let me reinforce my point with a simple truism . . . Whether they’re pleasant or painful, all those special “moments” pass, and time goes on. However we might have felt in the midst of it, “the moment” is never just about the moment.
A Captivating Moment ~
Let me risk a personal illustration. One of those memorable moments presented itself to me during a church service last fall. It showed up without fanfare or advance notice, but with powerful intensity. The lyrics of a praise song we sang that morning included the familiar word “hallelujah.” I have spoken, read, sung, or heard that word more times than I can count, and there was nothing particularly different about it on that occasion. Hallelujah is an ancient word that has crossed the boundaries of time and been embraced by all kinds of religious groups. It has defied ethnic distinctions, cultural peculiarities, ideological preferences, and generational trends. The term is a composite of Hebrew words that simply means “Praise the Lord,” and it has the rare linguistic quality of having its definition and pronunciation remain the same in every language and culture where it is encountered. The impact of that simple fact felt profoundly significant as I sang the word with my eyes closed that morning.
It occurred to me that when David sang that same word in the caves of Engedi, he pronounced his “Hallelujah” the same way. I wouldn’t have understood any of the other words the Spirit of God moved him to sing, but I’d know that one. It was as though I could see myself singing that word along with God’s anointed young warrior-king. That was a pretty special feeling, but then suddenly the scene in my mind expanded to include an innumerable host of people from every part of the world. It was clear that “hallelujah” didn’t just represent a connection with one of God’s children in an isolated cave in Israel. That hallelujah was a symbol of something we share with all those who, for thousands of years, have sung that same word back to the One who first inspired it and who alone deserves it.
An Invigorating Vision ~
In that unanticipated special moment, I felt in a fresh new way how immense this thing we’re a part of really is. This plan that God designed, this family that God is creating, and this unshakeable bond that holds it all together is so much bigger than anything we can begin to imagine, and we get to be a part of it forever. The reality of it all gripped my heart with an almost overwhelming intensity. “Wow…” I muttered to myself. “I wish I could hang onto this and preserve it forever.”
Have you ever had one of those weird times when it felt like God was saying something directly to you? The message God delivered that day was profoundly simple and clear. “This is not about preserving a moment. It’s about preparing you for all the ones that will follow.”
God has been handing out all kinds of priceless, sometimes miraculous, personal moments since the beginning. On otherwise ordinary days, unforgettable things like this have happened:
- The moment when Moses heard that burning bush call out to him.
- The moment when an insignificant young shepherd boy was anointed king.
- The moment when a young girl caught in adultery heard Jesus say, “Neither do I condemn you…”
- The moment when a hopeless leper felt the touch of Jesus’ hand and saw his diseased flesh transform.
- The moment when a man blind from birth beheld a world full of colors he had never imagined.
- The moment when Mary heard her resurrected Savior call her name.
My little inspirational moment was nothing compared to the incredible things others have experienced, but they have at least one thing in common. None of those experiences were an end in themselves. They were meant to pave the way for the life that would follow. As captivating as those moments are, they cannot be successfully “seized.” Their emotional impact can’t be captured and possessed, but those events can be evaluated and interrogated. We look for their meaning and take what God infused into them. We can absorb the strength, embrace the encouragement, explore the understanding, apply the wisdom, practice the perseverance, and display the courage that those moments conveyed.
Memorable moments and traditions like black-eyed peas, collard greens, and hog jowls can’t provide nourishment like that, so I encourage you to take some time as 2020 begins to unfold and ponder those special moments that God gave you last year. He’s already prepared us to meet whatever the new year brings, so may each of us commit to making it prosperous for His kingdom, honoring to His name, and blessed for one another.
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