Driving home this evening from visiting friends I drove past a church that I once considered attending as a teenager. I was immediately hit with the sobering question of what my life might be like today if I had attended that church instead of the one I ended up attending, the church I still call home twenty years later. The simple story is that I was invited by a friend, but the bigger picture takes me back further to a completely unrelated conversation with my grade 11 history teacher.
I was nearing the end of Grade 11 and holding very good marks in history and my teacher approached me recommending that I take a special level world issue course the next year. Although at that age my confidence level was quite low, this teacher's confidence in me convinced me to step out of my comfort zone and take this course setting a chain of events in place that would lead me to where I am today. In taking that course I was required to complete volunteer hours. I chose to volunteer my time at Youth for Christ, leading me to meet Harvey who would quickly become a close friend. Harvey, seeing that I was not connected to a church, invited me to his. I was welcomed warmly and within less than a year was baptized into membership. The next month I began my first summer of camp ministry which soon transitioned into a year round ministry position financially supported strongly by my church family. Eventually the call came to move into pastoral ministry in this same church, starting with worship ministry, adding small groups to my responsibilities, and then exchanging small groups for middle school ministry where I am still serving today.
As I traced these things back I was struck by how different my life would be if my teacher had not had that simple encouraging conversation with me. It is quite possible that my life would be almost unrecognizable from what it is now and it shook me because of how the last few days have been such a reminder to me of the blessing of friendship and community that I enjoy. My lesson from this is that every moment we spend with others matters and may in fact be eternally significant. As a youth pastor I will never be able to pick and choose which moments with my kids will be impacting. I don't know if it will be a opportunity I offered, an encouragement I gave, or something I taught from scripture, or even just some time spent together. I pray it's not the time I lost my temper, the need for attention I ignored, or the opportunity I failed to give because I wasn't watching close enough to see the gift God was forming inside of someone. I can only pray for God's grace that my impact, every day and every moment, will be positive and that the good things will be remembered.