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Defining Moments

by Carol Elaine Loperena

teacher's desk and chalkboard

It was not the usual start to our day at the Kelly household. My Dad, a minister, had gotten word that our neighbor’s husband had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Our church friends lived right across the street, and Mrs. Churchfriend was very close to Mrs. Goodneighbor, whose husband had died. While Mr. and Mrs. Goodneighbor weren’t members of our church, it was common for Dad to be called upon in times of need and this was certainly one of those times. I didn’t know the Goodneighbors very well but I saw the looks on my parents’ faces and knew it affected my parents deeply.

We had a lot of rules in our house, yet there were two that stood out in front of all others. When we answered the phone, we did so respectfully, as follows: “Hello, this is the Kelly residence, Carol speaking.” And when the caller would ask for a parent, the line was: “Who may I ask, is calling?” Although that rule may seem a bit over-the-top for most households, it emphasizes the fact that not only is a minister ‘on call’ 24 hours a day, but the family is as well. The other rule was that we never, ever repeated anything we heard or overheard in the household. As soon as I was old enough to understand why, I did quite well with that rule. But that rule was to be tested, as you will soon see.    

Rules Tested

Chemistry Lab The Student

At our big high school, I was nearly invisible to most other kids yet somehow out of place as a preacher’s kid. Being an introvert, quiet and unsure, made me feel even more so that way most days. Still the teachers usually liked me because I didn’t make any trouble, tried really hard, did my homework and mostly got B’s and A’s: well, B’s and A’s in all classes except Chemistry. Chemistry lab was very hands on, and for some reason my experiments never turned out. There seemed to be a million things to memorize on the periodic table, none of which made any sense to me. So not only was I not the teacher’s pet in that class, I was one that she wouldn’t remember as time went on; until my defining moment, that is.

As I sat in the Chemistry class that day I had such an uneasy feeling. You see, also in my Chemistry class was Bryce Goodneighbor. And things never went very well for Bryce in that class, either. Yes, sometimes Bryce was late to class and then Ms. Chemteach would comment. Or I seem to recall that she would call out for assignments to be turned in and he might not have his assignment done. Whatever the infraction might have been, it seemed after a while that Ms. Chemteach, perhaps unknowingly, had gotten into a pattern of picking on Bryce as if he were the only one in the class that hadn’t made it to class on time; or so it seemed to her.

Defining Moment The Choice

I wasn’t sure if Bryce would come to school that day. I imagine most kids wouldn’t have. The uneasy feeling kept getting stronger and before I knew how I got there I was at the front of the classroom with Ms. Chemteach looking down at me expectantly from her desk on the raised platform. “Ms. Chemteach, I just wanted to ask you to please not pick on Bryce today. His father died last night.” I heard myself say. Complete silence. Then she quietly nodded her head in agreement. Soon after, Bryce walked in the door after the bell and nothing was said. In fact, I don’t think he was ever called on in that class again.

What is your defining moment? For every person it’s different. For some of you it may be that you had a lot of time to think about what that moment would entail ahead of time. For others, like me, it may happen unexpectedly. It’s the moment when you know your heart, and you know what you have to do even at a cost, even if it makes someone in authority uncomfortable, or possibly even if it breaks a family rule. It is the moment when you realize that you have the authority to stand up for what you believe is right.

Recognize Your Moment

Jesus’ apostle Peter had a defining moment. Many people mistakenly think that Peter’s defining moment was when he denied Jesus three times. No, a defining moment isn’t that moment in which you fail to do what is right, for if we are honest with ourselves, we have plenty of those each day. I sure wasn’t the perfect teenager; not even close. Your defining moment is the moment in which you see the person that you know God wants you to be, and you become that. What was Peter’s defining moment? I challenge you to get to know him better by reading the books 1st Peter and 2nd Peter, in the New Testament of the Bible. Maybe it was the day he first preached the gospel (Acts 2), the first of all the apostles to do so. Perhaps it was during the transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17). Or more likely, it’s a moment known only to Peter.

You know, I’m not going to pretend to be cool now any more than I could as a teenager in my big high school. But I can tell you this, "When you recognize your defining moment, hold on to it and never let go." For it will anchor you through the rest of your life. You’ll have more moments like that, but you’ll never forget the time when You first realized who God wants you to be, and how God worked that miracle. Now that’s Cool!