Your Next Defining Moment Will Be Sooner Than You Think

By Tom Gilson Published on March 2, 2019

Your next defining moment is coming. You don’t know when. Will you be ready for it?

Barronelle Stutzmann faced a defining moment when one of her regular customers, a gay man, asked her to do flowers for his same-sex wedding. She told him she couldn’t do that in good conscience. Her integrity in that decision changed the course of her life.

Defining moments set a course for your future. They’re called defining moments for a reason: they determine who you’ll be and how you’ll be known from this point forward. Either that, or they reveal who you’ve always been.

Setting a Course for Your Future

Several years ago a boss asked me to fudge some numbers to make a fund appeal seem more enticing. I said no. He didn’t like it. A retired brigadier general, he wasn’t used to not getting what he wanted. In his defense, he thought he had good ethical grounds for his demand; it’s just that I couldn’t agree with him on that.

I was putting my job on the line and I knew it, but I held my ground. Finally he relented. By God’s grace, I kept my job there just long enough to be prepared for a better situation.

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That decision changed me. I learned I could say no to a powerful person, based on ethical convictions, and come out okay.

A few years later I sat across the table from another powerful leader, Charles Colson. When I said “yes” to working with him, my “yes” meant more for knowing I had it in me to say no, if that had been the right answer. That earlier moment had told me who I was. It defined me and set a course for my future.

Defining Moments Don’t Announce Themselves in Advance

You never know when your next defining moment will come. You don’t get a week’s advance prep time. It comes when it comes.

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One summer Sunday morning in 1992 I found myself racing up the stairs to rescue our 9 month-old son from his crib during a violent earthquake (7.4, we later learned). It didn’t occur to me until days later that I’d risked my life to go get him. As defining moments go, though, that one was nothing special: It’s what dads do. It just revealed that I was normal.

Yet I think in a way, my tough decision with the general was no more extraordinary. I’d been following Jesus Christ for more than 35 years. Ethical communications? It’s what Christ-followers do.

How to Prepare for Your Defining Moment

Your defining moment is coming. You can count on it — especially if you’re a believer in Christ. It could be someone asking you to alter a report. It could be someone hurting a loved one. It’s very likely to be someone criticizing your Christianity. How can you prepare for it?

I’m quite sure that if you asked Barronelle Stutzman what made her ready to stand for Christ when the pressure came, she’d say she’d developed the habit of standing with Christ already.

Because rarely do the big crises come that make your character. You’re making it right now.

I think of how I climbed the stairs for my son, and held my ground before the general: I did what dads do, and I did what Christ-followers do.

Or I think of my friend Julie, who was dying of early onset breast cancer at age 35. She encouraged her friends more than we encouraged her. When my wife asked how she kept up her joy, Julie said, “I’ve been practicing walking with Christ for a good while now. I’m just doing the same.”

Make Right Now Your Defining Moment

So you could say I was wrong: You do know when your next defining moment is coming: right now. If not now, then at least at the next chance you get to make a choice — virtually any choice.

You could ask yourself right now, What could I do in the next half day that would lift someone up, or show them love?

You could choose right now to make time for church on Sunday.

You could choose to study God’s Word.

You could decide to do your taxes honestly.

You could make time for your kids — or your parents, depending.

These kinds of things define right now who you will be tomorrow.

Because rarely do the big crises come that make your character. You’re making it right now.

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