CHOICES CHOOSE TO LIVE
Deep into the night I was walking down a dark street in the city of San Salvador under the care of a night watchman who was returning me to my home. No more than six or seven years old, I somehow slipped through the fortress-like security of my grandparents' home and found my way into the dangerous street outside. Later, Papi Hermelindo and Mami Finita even attempted to wait up with a camera to document my escape. Interrogating me was of no value since I had no recollection of the event. I was a sleepwalker going places in my dreams where my body insisted on following. All I would ever remember was dreaming that I could fly, that I was going places that I had never seen but somehow knew awaited my exploration. Waking up always carried with it at least some small disappointment. Such a great divide between dreams and reality-between dreams and life. How in the world is the real thing supposed to compete with what you can conjure in your imagination? Not that life was bad, but it wasn't a dream.
But it didn't stop there. It wasn't just that the dreams made sleeping more attractive than living. The dreams invaded my waking hours as well. It wasn't enough to be a sleepwalker; I was also a daydreamer. I was a citizen, if not a captive, of my imagination. The places I could go, the things I could do, the person I could become were far more compelling than the life I was living. Yet even when I was playing it safe, there was an adventurer screaming to be set free.
As I grew, I used books to feed my dreams. I would feed my longing to join a quest through the journeys of endless heroes. Whether it was an ancient odyssey or a futuristic enterprise, I would find adventure through their experiences. But this would only intensify my craving rather than quench it.
There was a voice screaming inside my head, Don't sleep through your dreams!
Ever heard that voice? It calls you like a temptress to abandon the monotony of life and to begin an adventure. It threatens to leave you in the mundane if you refuse to risk all that you have for all that could be. If ignored, the voice dims to silence. Yet every now and again, like a siren, she sings and begins to woo you back. She awakens within you dreams and longings you put to bed long ago. It is rarely a conscious action to choose to exist rather than to live. For most of us we are simply lulled to sleep. But there is no rest in this condition. To sleep through your dreams is to choose a life of restless nights and unfulfilled days. To avoid the pain of fear, doubt, and disappointment we have numbed ourselves from the exhilaration of a life fully lived.
We are all haunted with the fear of living lives of insignificance, and we all hear the voice that tells us we can live the dream. Somehow we all know that to play it safe is to lose the game. By definition an adventure is "an undertaking or enterprise of a hazardous nature." In other words, it comes at great risk and at significant cost. And life as God intends for you to live it is nothing less than an adventure. You were created for both pleasure and purpose. You might be thinking, I'm not sure if I really want to undertake an enterprise of a hazardous nature. Is a life of adventure really worth the risk? Is it really necessary? Yes, you can choose to play it safe, you can choose to settle for less, but never forget this: You were born to live a great adventure; You were created with a divine destiny; You are called to fulfill a great mission. You were designed for a unique purpose. Now you are called to live it out.
In this I think God has been either terribly misunderstood or tragically misrepresented. All God seems to be known for is legalism, rules, judgments, commands and wrath. In fact, Jesus calls us to live a life of unimaginable adventure. It begins the moment we choose to follow Him. It is no less than to pass from existence to life. Though we are not taken out of time and space, we are translated into an entirely different dimension of living. Jesus tells us that He is the portal into this life and the quest that follows. Jesus describes Himself as a door, a gate, a portal. In other words, an escape hatch. He has come to free us from a meaningless existence and liberate us to a life filled with adventure. He has come to lead us out of the mundane and into the extraordinary. Strangely enough we find it hard to trust Him, while all the time He has been trying to lead us out of the dark dungeons we have created for ourselves and let us run free in the light of day. When we come to Him, he translates us into an entirely new realm of living. His promise is that in Him we will find the life that our hearts have always longed for. Jesus was crucified as a criminal, but what His accusers didn't know was that He was planning and fulfilling history's most extraordinary prison break.
When we open our lives to Him, we can live our lives wide open. We are translated from one reality into another. We are now forever in relationship with the One who is the source of love, life, and freedom.
Everything that we will explore in the pages to come echoes the invitation of Jesus to come and follow Him. He is inviting us on a divine quest. He's calling us to be spiritual pioneers, explorers, and adventurers. To respond to this calling is to accept that you will be a sojourner relinquishing the security of being a settler. To follow Him is to choose to forever be an alien and stranger in this world. You will never be the ideal citizen or even a permanent resident of this planet we know as earth.
I have always been fascinated by the concept that H. G. Wells developed in his work The Time Machine. At least in my lifetime his imagination has proved to be timeless. The Time Machine has gone from literature to small screen and finally to major motion picture. I imagine that H. G. Wells has groomed an entire generation fascinated by time travel. While space travel has become a reality in the past fifty years, time travel seems to be destined to elude us forever, except for one important detail-we are all time travelers. Although we are ill-equipped to survive in space, we were perfectly designed to travel through time. Moving through moments is as natural as breathing. There are, of course, limitations. We cannot travel backward, and we can travel only one moment at a time. Nevertheless, we are all time voyagers leaving history in our wake, pioneering into the future.
In the most recent interpretation of H. G. Wells, one point is made with inescapable emphasis: even with a time machine you cannot change the past, so change the future. Madeleine L'Engle made me hopeful that somehow we would find a wrinkle in time, but so far my experience tells me that time is straightforward, which leads us to the importance of chasing daylight.
Jesus was also fascinated with time. He should be; He came up with the idea. Imagine being the eternal God now walking among your creation within the confines of time and space. Yet while you would think Jesus has all the time in the world, He instead has the greatest sense of urgency. His eternal perspective drives Him to seize the power of every moment. He knows that history has an expiration date. Everything that has a date of birth has a time of death. That doesn't mean that everything ends. You, for instance, are designed for eternal life. While your life on this earth was always meant to be temporary, you were created with the intent to live forever in the kingdom of God's love. Yet as real as eternity is, so is time. We are created in time, and our most important work is time-critical. There are things that must be done today, things that you and you alone were created to accomplish. Some of us are wasting our time burning daylight when what we need to be doing is seizing the power of every moment.
TAKE A MOMENT
If you could capture one moment of your life, which one would it be? Some particular moment in the past? A moment of regret? How many of us haven't spent many moments reflecting on moments lost, all the time unaware that moments lost in regret are exactly that-moments lost? If you could take a moment, seize it, and squeeze out of it all the life available within it, shouldn't that moment be in the future rather than in the past? What if you knew somewhere in front of you was a moment that would change your life forever, a moment rich with potential, a moment filled with endless possibilities? What if you knew that there was a moment coming, a divine moment, one where God would meet you in such a way that nothing would be the same again? What if there was a moment, a defining moment, where the choices you made determined the course and momentum of your future? How would you treat that moment? How would you prepare for it? How would you identify it?
Moments are as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands in the sea, and any of them could prove to be your most significant divine moments. Within those moments, a handful will become the defining moments in your life. However mundane a moment may appear, the miraculous may wait to be unwrapped within it. You rarely know up front the eternal significance of a moment. When a moment is missed, you have a glimpse at an opportunity lost. When you dream, you look to a moment still to come. The moment that you must seize right now is the one in front of you. If you begin to imagine all the moments you are responsible for, it can become overwhelming. Yet moments are not independent, isolated, or disconnected. What you do with this moment affects every moment to come. This is your moment. The biblical imagery for a moment is the wink of an eye. In other words, don't blink or you'll miss it.
I look briefly into the concept of a moment in the chapter "Momentum" in my previous work, An Unstoppable Force. I make this observation:
I think we need to spend a day with Monet. He had a clear sense of what was hidden in a moment. Most of us think of a moment as something that's stationary, stagnant, and unchanging. We want to capture the moment and stand in the moment. If there's a moment you want to preserve or remember, you take a snapshot.
The genius of Monet is that he saw the moment for what it really was. It was as if he actually read the dictionary and realized that the essence of the words moment and motion are the same. Monet was a master of light and movement. His paintings were blurred and obscure and yet beautiful and full of insight. If we could somehow see life through his eyes, we would begin to see life as it really is. Our ability to see the world as it really is has been corrupted by the camera. With a turn of a lens or a push of a button, we are able to take the blur out. We've come to see the world through still frames, when in reality life is in constant motion.
Moments move in a timely manner, and time waits for no one. Though it may seem to be the case, time never stands still. And like petals of a rose, moments fall to the ground once there is no life in them. Moments are to be treasured-not just the moments that you've already lived, but the moments brimming with life. I can say with confidence this is your moment. There may well be many moments waiting behind this one, and though the most significant moments of your life may still be moments away, the moment you're in right now waits to be seized.
JUST A MOMENT
One of the Greek words from which we get the English word moment is atomos. You can easily see that the words atom and atomic come from atomos. This is the perfect picture of what is hidden in a moment. The image of an atom reminds us of how easily we could miss a moment or even underestimate it. An atom symbolizes the smallest unit of an element. It was considered the irreducible unit. The idea was that you couldn't get any smaller than this, which is why it is so easy to miss your moment. Like atoms, they come in endless numbers and of insignificant stature. They're just easy to overlook and ignore.
At the same time, we have the image of the atomic hidden in the moment. Within the atomic, there is nuclear capacity derived from the rapid release of energy in the fission of heavily atomic nuclei. There is a disproportionate power in relationship to size. Fission is the act or process of splitting into parts. When you seize divine moments, you instigate an atomic reaction. You become a human catalyst creating a divine impact. The result can even be earthshaking.
This is what we find in the life of a man named Jonathan. A person who, through seizing a divine moment, began a venture he would never forget. Through him we will find ourselves at the edge of uncharted terrain with a challenge to live a life of adventure. Jonathan was the son of Saul, the king of Israel. In the first book of Samuel, chapter 14, the Hebrew text opens for us a defining moment in the life of this young prince. With careful detail Samuel painted for us the textures of how to seize divine moments. The characteristics that Jonathan demonstrated I have seen in men and women who have the uncanny ability to capture the moments of life. They are able to take the atom and make it atomic. What for others would become a moment missed, for them becomes a moment maximized. For them life is full of opportunity and endless possibilities. They share with Jonathan a certain approach toward life. Over time I have come to describe these characteristics as "the Jonathan Factor."
The Jonathan Factor is the explosive result that occurs when we step into a divine moment and unleash its full potential. How we view God dramatically affects who we become. How we understand God to work directly affects the life we live in God. Even the subtle shift from receiving Jesus to following Jesus is significant. The first allows us to remain stationary as God comes to us; the second demands our moving with God. When Jesus walked this earth, His disciples had to keep up with Him. If they were to stay close, they had to choose to leave the life they lived without Him and go wherever He would go. The life of Jonathan reinforces that God calls us to give our lives for something greater than ourselves. The path is thick with mystery, danger, and the unknown. The quest is to live the life God created you to experience. The journey begins right now-in this moment. And whatever you do, don't underestimate what you may find.
ENJOY THE MOMENT
While I was writing this book, I was rudely interrupted by life. I had an incoming call from the East Coast on my cell phone from a person I had never met. He was a referral from a friend I had helped come to faith several years before. She had met him and found him to be on an intense quest for God. On her suggestion that he call me, we began a long-distance conversation about a spiritual journey. Very quickly into the conversation I expressed how difficult it is to have so important a conversation over the phone. He concurred and immediately suggested that he fly from the East Coast to Los Angeles so that we could talk face-to-face.
Frankly, it was a really busy time in my life. Between leading Mosaic-our community of faith in the heart of Los Angeles-and writing this book, I was squeezing in weekly trips across the country. My family had just requested my increased presence in their lives, so I had cleared my calendar to have extra time with them and, I hoped, finish the manuscript before the deadline. Yet one thing I know about my family is that they can always make time for someone searching for God. So I invited him to stay in our home, and I encouraged him to come as quickly as he could. He seemed a bit surprised that we would invite a stranger into our home, but joyfully accepted our invitation. It was as if he knew there was a window of opportunity and he didn't want to miss it. I later learned that during his flight out he was reading an early manuscript of this book that I had given our mutual friend, and he was clearly determined to seize his divine moment.
One week later, Aaron and I picked up this professor of international policy and brought him into our family. We enjoyed him immensely, and our talks about God convinced me that he had become a genuine follower of Christ. Then he got all weird on me. He asked me if I would baptize him on Sunday. I explained to him that since we rented facilities, we did not have an indoor baptistery, but I would be happy to baptize him either in the ocean or in our pool. I mentioned the ocean only in passing. I never intended to take him to the beach at that time of the year. For LA, fifty degrees is cold, not to mention the water temperature. The Pacific is frigid in the summer and ungodly the rest of the year.