I have been reflecting lately on what it means to be caught up in a defining moment. A moment when you stand at a crossroad, wondering which way to turn, which road to take.

Oh, you know the moment. It can be dramatic and life-changing. Or it can seem insignificant, yet still life-changing.

Whatever the moment-large or small-it is still.defining. You do not choose this moment. Indeed, a requirement seems to be thast it must be unaticipated, unexpected, unplanned for-heretofore an unthinkable moment. It becomes defining because no matter the choice-to stand tall, to fall back, to move forward-you know that you will never be the same.

For a rod has shot through your spine and pierced your soul. Your heart stands still. You cannot breathe. You try to discern the moment calling within your spirit. You search to listen to that still, small voice within you, knowing that this may be a turn in the road when your dream might fade.

You ask: Who am I? What is important to me? And at what cost?

These questions come from a knowingness that all is not well, and a certainly that you will never, ever be the same. A defining moment. Your defining moment.

I certainly have found myself in those moments. I could give you several examples in my professional career of defining moments because those are almost safer-although probably not easier-experiences. I have had defining moments in my personal life as well, and those are much more painful and sometimes more embarrassing to share. I will share one of those with you now.

It was July 1980. I was living in California with my first husband. While the marriage had begun as most marriages do or should-with hope, love, and dreams-after ten years, it had gradually moved to despair, disappointments, and broken promises. I found myself walking closely on the edge of depression and desperation. I knew that I had to leave that place if I wanted to keep my sanity.

On the eve of my return to Chicago to defend my doctoral dissertation, I asked my then-husband if we could spend my last day in California together. Perhaps we could go for a drive along the coast, have lunch, and see a movie. He left that morning at 8:00 a.m.; by 2:00 am the following morning, he had not come home. I was filled with hopelessness and despair. I was distraught, despondent, and angry.

Up in the hall closet, I remembered that he had a gun, fully loaded, given to him by his father. As I brought the gun down, blinded by my own tears and frightened by my state of confusion, I began to cry and pray fervently for God to intervene in my life at that moment.

A defining moment: unanticipated, unexpected, unplanned for, and heretofore, an unthinkable moment. Defining because no matter the choice-to stand still, to stand tall, to fall back, to move forward-I knew that I would never, ever be the same. For a rod had shot through my spine and pierced my soul. My heart stood still. I could not breathe.

I tried to discern the calling within my spirit. I searched to listen to that still, small voice within me, knowing that this was a turn in the road when my dream might fade.

I fell asleep on my knees at the couch with the gun in my hands, in prayer. I was awakened at sunrise by the sound of the front door opening. I whispered to myself, "Thank you, Jesus."

That day I got on the plane with fifty dollars, two suitcases, and a draft of my dissertation. And I never looked back. Everything I own today, down to my pantyhose, I have acquired by myself, over these past twenty-some years.

A defining moment. A moment that I survived only through the grace of God.

Perhaps you, too, are standing at the threshold of a defining moment or perhaps you can recall your own struggle with believing in a loving God during an unloving moment. If so, then this message is definitely for you.

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