I’ve played the moment over in my head a thousand times in a hundred different ways. This time it’s like a scene out of a coming-of-age novel, or maybe a movie – probably the latter, based on the former. The protagonist, a twenty-year-old boy in a well-worn hoodie, sits alone in his seat, the florescence of his laptop’s screen providing an island of dim light in the darkened corridor of the Greyhound. A dramatic song, the more indie the better, courses through his headphones, driving the words through his fingers and the keys and onto the virtual page with a searing intensity. Whatever he’s writing, it matters, and not just to himself. Something life-changing, something he’s needed to say for the entire story but couldn’t find the words, is coming at last to the surface, and he can barely type fast enough to get it all out.
But life’s not a movie, and I’m not that boy. I’m sitting aboard a bus just like his, watching the headlights of countless cars dash off into the infinite blackness of somewhere else while my fingers rest on the home row of my laptop’s keyboard. Like him, I know I’m on the brink of something important, something I need desperately to do or say or become, but unlike that boy, I can’t find it. My fingers search for the backspace key more frequently than any of the others, and the words come out at an uncertain pace, arranging themselves with a stubborn reluctance. Real life comes, as it always does, with a distinct lack of fanfare, and with it the fear that my moment will never come.
I’ve promised myself “the moment” just as many times as I’ve imagined it. One day, I pledge, the veil of mediocrity that’s settled over my life will lift in a blaze of clarity, and from that moment on my life will burst with meaning. No more wasted moments that stretch into wasted days and on into wasted summers. No more pretending to be a writer, passing up every opportunity to practice my craft in favor of another episode of The Office or another hour of Minecraft, as if declaring to myself every once in a while that I want to be a writer is enough to make it a reality. No more pretending to be a Christian, passing up every opportunity to seek God and invest in others in favor of sitting at home and talking a good game, as if occasionally theorizing about what it really looks like to follow Christ is anything like actually doing it. The moment will come, and all of that will be behind me. But every time, the reality of it falls far short of my expectations.
For a brief instant, I’m gripped with regret as I think of all the time I’ve wasted waiting for a moment that keeps passing me by. Then I promise myself that next time, when the moment presents itself, I’ll seize it, and that is enough to silence the guilt for a few more aimless weeks, until the next time I find myself on a Greyhound, speeding through the night, listening to Florence and the Machine, with nothing of substance to say. I’ve missed the moment, I tell myself, but at least I tried. There’s always next time. One of these days it’ll find me.
But what if it never finds me? What if the moment for which I’ve been waiting is a lie? What if the way to becoming a better man, to being a real writer and a real Christ-follower and a real person is through a series of difficult, gritty, commonplace, unassuming moments, each one hard-fought and sorely earned, adding together over time to create something just one moment never could: real change. What if I stopped smothering my conscience with the empty promise of “the moment” long enough to hear what it’s been trying to tell me all along but I’ve been too cowardly to hear: that I’ve got it backwards. That my moment is out there, but I can’t wait for it to come to me – I have to go get it. One day the words I’ve been desperate to say, the man I’ve been longing to be since my story began will break through, but it’s going to take hard work, sacrifice, and failure. If I’m ever to get there, the fight for one day has to start now.