I was 20 when I got my first tattoo. It was preceeded by double pierced ears and a nose ring. Not exactly bad-ass material yet, but I felt like I was ready to have a needle rapidly push ink into my skin that would remain there forever. I mean, what could I possibly regret about that later in life? I was 20 for heaven’s sake. I was an adult.
Truthfully, it wasn’t really a whim. I labored for months over the image and the words I wanted, the font , the placement, the size, the color. I set up the appointment and went in for a consultation and then set up another appointment. I ate the right things and didn’t drink caffeine and brought hard candy and did what I was supposed to according to the almighty internet. But then, all of a sudden, in a fleeting moment, it was done. The ink was there, permanently injected into my skin where it would remain on my body until my last breath.
Just a fleeting moment. With a forever consequence.
I got the tattoo after falling from grace earlier that year.
A few months prior, I got into not a little bit of partying trouble. I’ll spare you the details, but that night took me by the shoulders and shook me relentlessly as if screaming at me “who are you? What have you become?”
It wasn’t by any means a conscious decision to go that hard that night. It was a just another drink, just one more shot, just a small piece of vodka soaked watermelon (I don’t even like watermelon, ok?) string of decisions in fleeting moments that capsized into an unforgivable morning.
Between this fateful night and the perma-ink in my arm, was another fleeting moment with forever consequences.
It was Good Friday. The day of reckoning. After months of reflection, months of tears, months of sober nights and endless questions, I found my answers at the foot of the cross. I recommitted my life to Christ in a fleeting moment of trembling, saturated in brokenness, vulnerability, and grace.
Almost a year later I found myself walking home from a friends house late at night. A few kids I knew stopped me and asked me to come into a house party and hang out for a little bit. I thought about it, for a now seemingly endless second, and agreed.
They went in to find the drinks. I went to the bathroom. Century-long moments later, I was breaking through a bathroom window and running frantically away from the man who locked me in there and sexually assaulted me.
Fleeting seconds, never ending moments, forever changed.
Somewhere in the midst of those fleeting moments of shame and grace and hurt, I met my soon to be husband. It was the first time I had ever felt like my heart resided in my stomach, which as a scientist (I can say this now because I have a degree in biology, so there), I can tell you is not the anatomical norm.
One day he surprised me at my best friend’s house during what was supposed to be a girls weekend. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. In the same breath I said yes. Not even a moment to think.
Fleeting nanosecond. Joyful, exciting forever consequence.
It’s these fleeting moments stitched together with sunset and sunrise after sunset and sunrise that have made up the 22 years of my life.
They always seem like fleeting moments, that’s the trouble. They’re just instantaneous choices. But their effects are so long lasting.
In the last few days I’ve been captured by this idea. All of these fleeting moments- the horrors of my life, the treasures in my story- they come and go so quickly. But then, do they ever really go?
The first part- the come and go so quickly- has my attention in so many ways. At first I thought, I am in a season where so much is happening all at once- this is just a special time in my life where things are coming and going and every moment must be precious and appreciated.
But then I thought, LOL. Ok, stop being and idiot, Rach, when is there a time in life where things don’t come and go quickly and every moment shouldn’t be precious? This isn’t unique to just this season.
But this season is so full of these moments. Moments of spontaneous camping, moments of beer on the roof, moments of euphoria from my first ever real job, moments of terror over my first ever real job, moments of intense challenge after moving in with my fiancé, moments of insane joy after moving in with my fiancé, moments of love and laughter with friends before they move away, moments of love and laughter with friends when they come back and visit, moments, moments, moments. Moments that will never come back. Moments that came disguised as ordinary life, swept me off my feet, and have left me in awe of this ordinary life.
I lay in bed at night and I’m, as Dylan says, ooey-gooey. My stone cold heart is soft and warm and beating loudly for the moments of this season. I love this life.
I hope every season to come is grounded in this realization that we don’t get these moments back. That these fleeting moments come and go, masquerading as unimportant. That one day I’ll look back on this life of mine and it’ll be these fleeting moments that I remember- these fleeting moments that will have carved me into the person I am- these fleeing moments that I will treasure.
The second part- the do they ever really go? That part makes my heart skip a beat. In good and bad ways. I just spent a novel talking about how they come and go so quickly and to treasure each moment and all that Hallmark-kumbaya-stuff- but truthfully, if we’re honest, most of these fleeting moments never really leave us. Like the tattoos on my body, these fleeting moments have been pushed into me, engrained into my being where they will remain through my dying breath.
They all become a part of us. They are the forever consequence. They are the reason I hate Fireball, the reason for the panic attacks that sometimes ensue after entering a dark bathroom, the reason for the overwhelming gratitude I feel on Good Friday. They are the reason I will soon be called “wife,” the reason for the greatest friendships I have. They are the forever consequence.
Pick out the good moments and call yourself #blessed, and pick out the bad and call it grace.
Together, they both help us become who we are. So embrace the moments. The fleeting moments where you find yourself in trouble, the fleeting moments where you find yourself saying “yes” to the love of your life, the fleeting moments where you introduce yourself to a stranger who becomes your best friend, the fleeting moments where you find yourself curled up and bawling on the floor, internally screaming for comfort, the fleeting moments of ordinary life. Embrace them. Each and every one.
Finally, this idea has me captivated, my heart skipping a beat, my hands trembling because in this life of sewn together fleeting moments, we are inevitably a part of someone else’s fleeting moments. And you have to ask yourself, what will your forever consequence be?
As a fiancé, a sister, a daughter, an almost daughter in law, a friend, and now a teacher, what kind of forever consequences will I impose on the people around me?
As part of our teacher education, in one of my many classes we were asked to respond to the prompt, “Who is your most memorable teacher?”
Some kids talked about their favorite teachers, or the weirdest teachers, and some of us talked about our least favorite teacher. And then the discussion on lasting impact was had. As teachers, we will have a lasting impact on our students. And we hope that it’s a good one.
But how many of us hear “teacher” and think of some horrific thing a teacher said to us once, a response they had, an attitude they showed?
And now, think not just about teachers, but about those scars you bare from a person who burned you. Someone who, in a fleeting moment, did or said something that changed you forever.
Chances are, we have all been in someone else’s fleeting moment that left them with a forever scar. And as I prepare for a new phase of life- one with new friends, new students, new families- I hope and pray that in the fleeting moments I have with these people, I will leave them with a joyful forever. And I hope and pray that others will do they same.
Because it’s in times like these- times where people hide behind screens, afraid to be in the raw presence of other people, times where hatred from both ends of the political spectrum overwhelm and barrage our eyes with vulgar words and hurtful comments, times where older people hate younger people for being different than them and younger people hate older people for not understanding, times where we check the box to advance us to the next step without taking a moment to look up from our resumes to build relationships, times where sad and broken people post happy and pulled-together facades to trick the world into thinking they have it all- in times like these fleeting moments become more powerful than ever.
Fleeting moments of unapologetic joy and laughter and passion and excitement are to be treasured above political rightness and haughty “I told you so, I’m better” moments. Fleeting moments of pain and heartbreak and terror or brokenness are to be honored- to be shared with our most trusted tribes and are exposed so that they can heal. No more facades to hide our hurt. No more falsely perceiving pain as weakness. These real moments of every day life are fleeting. And if we don’t look up from our screens or take a break from telling “them” how wrong they are, if we don’t start being honest with each other about who we really are, if we don’t quit hiding behind an agenda and a resumé, we will miss the good fleeting moments and live in a world of endless, abusive fleeting moments that are sewn together by letters and a camera on an iPhone.
So, I’m striving today, tomorrow, day after day until I meet my Maker to embrace every fleeting moment. To celebrate each joyful moment and to learn from each difficult one. I’m striving to be aware of the words I say and the things that I do so that in the fleeting moments that make up the lives of those around me, I leave a better forever for them.
At the end of this life, it will be these fleeting moments stitched together with sunset and sunrise after sunset and sunrise that have made it up. It’ll be these fleeting moments that came disguised as ordinary life, swept us off our feet, and will have left us in awe of this ordinary life. It’s these fleeting moments. I am deeply in love with each and every one of them. Are you?