Life-Changing Moments – Part 1
Jacob Meets Rachel
Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east. As he looked, he saw a well in the field and three flocks of sheep lying there beside it; for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well.
Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” He said to them, “Do you know Laban son of Nahor?” They said, “We do.” He said to them, “Is it well with him?” “Yes,” they replied, “and here is his daughter Rachel, coming with the sheep.” He said, “Look, it is still broad daylight; it is not time for the animals to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me. For this reason I sent you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere in every church. But some of you, thinking that I am not coming to you, have become arrogant. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power. What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
Those powerful life-changing moments happen to us all. Many of them require preparation, but some of them sneak up on us. Either way, the greatest success stories all share one thing in common: Someone was in the right place at the right time, and did the right thing.
I get all bent out of shape around these moments. Something happened to my nerves when I was young and I’m not sure exactly what or who to blame (although at this point it really doesn’t matter). I start getting nervous somewhere between a week and 2 days before I know these moments occur. Then, during them, I just go on autopilot. I talk more, faster, and louder, than I would normally do. In fact, looking back at recordings of some of these moments is a little bit embarrassing. Then, shortly after I finish whatever automatic response I had stored up, my nerves kick in again and I want nothing more than to crawl into a hole in the ground and cease to exist for a couple weeks.
Psychologists have dubbed me and introvert, and I would add that I have some false extroverted coping tendencies. In a world that demands a particular degree of extroversion from us all, I struggle during some of those life-changing moments to simply fit in and feel human. Some of my most powerful, life-changing moments have been times alone, or at least alone with God. I hear more clearly from God and honestly, from everyone else as well when I am out of the crowd.
I cannot always plan time away from everyone in the middle of those important moments, and you may not need that yourself, but we all need a way to prepare for and process those moments. How can you tell when an important moment approaches? What do you do to make sure you are ready? Do you find yourself fighting against automatic responses that are unhelpful or do you find it better to simply rely on your instincts? These are things that are not often taught in life, but the whole of life tries to teach us.
It is, in many ways, the blessing of the Law. It prepares us for handling those important moments well, by training us throughout our lives in responses that are meant to become automatic – part of who we are. It is like parents who train their children to wash every day and brush their teeth, knowing full well, that most of their days they could probably get by without it… but one of those days young Jacob is going to meet Rachel, and the smell of his breath could change the course of his life forever. A long string of romantic relationships may keep you from being alone for a handful of years, but they may also keep you from a soulmate you have yet to meet. Learning to rein in your temper may be frustrating, until the one time you catch yourself before throwing a punch keeps you out of jail and helps you land that dream job you’ve been working towards your whole professional life.
God’s Law is not the end all and be all of spiritual life. It simply helps us recognize those important moments and successfully navigate them. It is not meant to just be read, it is meant to be lived out and modeled. That is why Paul sent Timothy back to the Corinthians – a church full of people on with untrained autopilots. They needed to see the Law in action and be lovingly corrected before the harsh consequences of life corrected them permanently.
What have been the most important moments of your life so far?
How did you know how or learn how to respond in those moments?
What important moments do you see coming up ahead?