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I don’t care for the term “defining moment.” The idea behind that term is that we are defined by what we would do if faced with a dramatic situation.  Would I jump in front of a speeding car in order to push a child out of its path?  Would I steal a large sum of money if no one would ever find out?

The problem is that the decisions we make under pressure don’t really show who we are. When we are under pressure, all kinds of unconscious things kick in – our instinct for self preservation is one.  So are fear and adrenalin.  So our singular good deeds don’t define us, nor do our momentary mistakes.  What truly defines us is what we do every day.  We are the sum of the small choices that we make regularly.

For Christians, we have just started the season of Lent. Typically during Lent people give up something that they do on a daily basis.  Very often they give up a bad habit, like eating too much chocolate.  I’ve never given up something for Lent, but this year I’ve decided to do so.  I am giving up swearing.

Truthfully, I don’t use foul language all that often. It isn’t part of how I normally express myself.  My swearing habit typically rears its ugly head when I’m mad.  Of course, using bad language isn’t the worst habit.  I’m not hurting myself or others, like one does with smoking.  But it isn’t a good habit either.  And like all habits, it becomes part of who you are.  That means that my swearing habit makes me an occasionally uncouth individual.  That isn’t how I would like to be described in my obituary.

The unavoidable truth is that we are our habits. We are the choices that we make every day.  If I leave my belongings everywhere or fail to make my bed, I am a slob.  If I don’t do things for other people on a daily basis, I am selfish.  If I don’t clean up after myself, I am inconsiderate.  And if I swear, I am uncouth.

The same holds true for our spiritual life. We are not Christians because we go to church on Sunday.  What we do for one hour a week is de minimis compared to the other 167 hours of the week.  So if we want to know who we are spiritually, then the questions we should ask ourselves are these:  What am I doing during the rest of the week?  Am I keeping my relationship with God my top priority through prayer, reading or meditation?  Am I treating others with love and patience?  Do my words build others up or do they tear them down?  Do I consciously think about ways that I can assist people who cross my path and need my help?

We don’t have one big defining moment in life. Instead, we have small defining moments – constantly.  Every little choice we make, from what we eat for breakfast, to how we speak to our spouse, to how we care for our children, defines who we are.  This week, make a point of pausing to consider your choices.  Choose to be an amazing spouse, parent or friend.  Choose to be helpful.  Choose to be a cheerleader to someone who needs encouragement.  Choose to be patient with someone who is grouchy.  This week, let God work through you to bless others.  Let your choices this week define to the world who you are – a child of God.

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:8-9

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