Defining moments

I was recently in a church personnel committee meeting where we were discussing whether to hire one of our own young adults as a youth ministry intern. Paul mentioned that this would be a great opportunity for our young man to understand the stirring he is feeling in his heart toward full-time ministry. Paul said, “He is hoping for a defining moment.’

I joked (but like all jokes I was partially serious), “I am in my 50’s and I am still looking for that defining moment to tell me who I will be when I grow up.”

A fellow committee member joined in, “After 70 years, I am still looking.”

Then Lee kicked in, too: “I still haven’t found it after 80 years of looking.” It was a tough room; hard to be the sage.

The next day during my noontime run, I spent five miles thinking about our discussion of defining moments. I thought, “There is good news and bad news in this.” The bad news was that none of us would ever have that single defining moment that lays out the whole path of our life. The good news? The same thing; we would never have that single moment. We are more likely to have many moments that lay out our near term plans and mark the phases of our lives. As I ran, I thought back through my life of those occasions when I got a glimpse, maybe just a sliver, of defining moments.

I remembered the moment when I knew beyond a doubt Cyndi was the girl for me. It was a few weeks before Thanksgiving of 1978, and I was sitting at the kitchen table in my college apartment in Norman, Oklahoma, talking to Cyndi on the telephone. She was in her dorm room at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque. This was back in the day when calling long distance was a big deal and cost lots of money. As we talked, I was flipping through my Bible, and my eyes landed on Proverbs 16:9. Right then, in that moment, in the middle of my conversation with Cyndi, I knew what to do. I was crystal clear to me. It wasn’t scary. I knew I should marry Cyndi, and I knew God would bless it. It was a defining moment for me.

I remember another moment, in the spring of 1990, while sitting in my adult Sunday school class at First Baptist Church, Midland, when God called me out. The challenge I heard so clearly in my head was, “You are wasting our time and wasting your gifts sitting in class; you should be teaching.” Later, over lunch, I told Cyndi about it, and she said, “It’s about time.” That evening I asked Marilyn, our department director, “I need to be teaching, can you find a class for me?” That moment has defined a large part of me for almost 20 years.

The next defining moment I remembered was when I was riding in my red Ford Ranger pickup on a snowy winter Friday, in November 1998. I was driving to Martina’s Bakery to pick up some beef tortas to take to Cyndi for lunch, when God spoke clearly to me about a new writing ministry. My heart had been hungry for a wider audience to share what God had given me. It was a breakthrough. I decided that afternoon to start emailing weekly essays to a small group of friends, and title them Journal Entries. After a few months, when I started having doubts about it all, Cyndi reminded me, “You were called by God to do this. I know it, because it comes from your heart, and your motives are true.”

I remembered more moments when God continued to define me as a writer. Both were at Wild at Heart camps. The first time was at a Boot Camp in the fall of 2003, in spiritual conversation about my true name. The second was at an Advanced Camp in the spring of 2008 after I saw the movie, August Rush. The message in both of those encounters was too deep and too personal to write about, yet, but the message I heard was similar - there is more here than you know.

And then I heard again when I published my first book, June 2009. It was a defining moment to hold it in my hand, to see the official bar code printed on the back, to see it for sale online, to understand that I can do this, and to know that I can do it again. It felt like the first moment of my next phase.

Not all my defining moments were happy. In 2007 I lost a city-wide election after serving in city government for twelve years. It was a hard message, that it was time for me to move on, time to move boldly into the next phase of my life, time to put past successes behind me and press forward. It was easy to write, but hard to do.

As I continued to run, nearing the gym and hot shower, the familiar soreness in my left knee reminded me of a couple more defining moments. My first marathon finish in 1983 at the Golden Yucca Marathon in Hobbs, NM; and then my 6th marathon finish in 1998 at the Paper Chase Marathon in Amarillo. They were separated by many years and thousands of training miles, yet they were similar moments, similar gut checks. Both races were too slow, but in each case I was proud of myself that I could suffer and survive, that I could finish without walking off the course.

Do you have any stories you’d like to share? Any defining moments from your life? Mark Batterson wrote, “It is the favor of God that gives me a sense of destiny. I know that God can intervene at any moment and turn it into a defining moment.” (Wild Goose Chase)

Tell me yours …




“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


Order Berry’s newest book, “Running With God,” from …


You can follow Berry on Twitter … @berrysimpson


Copyright 2009 Berry D. Simpson, all rights reserved.