A few weeks back I was looking at my old wedding album. In one of the photos I noticed by father (now deceased) standing ramrod straight, head erect, arms at his side, hands with fingers flexed and the thumbs along the seams of his trousers. Then it struck me—he was standing at attention! He illustrated the textbook definition of maintaining that military bearing. It begged the question, why?
I believe it reflected his Defining Moment—World War II. He was drafted in Army and served in the European Theater. During the war he learned a trade from the Signal Corps; developed leadership skills in running a POW camp for captured German soldiers; and acquired discipline as a first sergeant. But, there were negatives. Although, he was a good father, I found him to be a stoic and hard man. Difficult to really know. Traits, I think also came from his time in the war.
Before proceeding further, perhaps I should tell you what I mean by a Defining Moment. I see it as a time in life of intense personal growth fostered by an iron-sharpening-iron experience. I believe everyone goes through a Defining Moment. You may have had one, are going through one right now, or yours is on the horizon.
Like my father’s, mine took place in the military. I attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and spent three years on active duty in the Coast Guard. During that time I acquired discipline, maturity, and a wealth of knowledge. To this day I have habits stemming from that era from the way I fold my socks to being a stickler about being on time for an event.
The secret to a Defining Moment is to learn to incorporate the positive side of the experience. This can be problematic. For example, what if you have difficulty deciding what’s important about your Defining Moment or feel that your Defining Moment was all negative? What if it’s not consistent with your current world and life view? Or, maybe you really don’t feel that Defining Moment defines you.
I sometimes struggle with who I am based on my Defining Moment and who I am based on my Christian beliefs: the serious, rigid military type, always in charge versus the trusting, joyful follower of Christ.
What about you? Do you think there’s a Defining Moment in your life? I’d love to hear from you on the subject.