by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

The premise for this column began as a conversation with a friend who is a writer, Bible researcher and speaker to Bible-study groups. She also co-leads tours to the Holy Land, Greece, Egypt and Turkey. For years now I’ve been promising her that one of these days my husband and I were going to take a tour with her – and asking her to not give up on us. My most recent promise was made last week.

Her response back to me was a gentle reminder about seizing the moment — and a familiar Bible story. The story was about the blind fellow, Bartimaeus, when he was by the roadside outside Jericho. He realized that somewhere in the passing crowd, among pilgrims on their way to the Passover in Jerusalem, was Jesus of Nazareth. Desperately wanting to meet Jesus, he called out, was shushed by those around him, called out again … and was healed.

According to the Interpreter’s Bible, it was good that he was persistent and seized the moment, because, unbeknownst to him, and to almost everyone, this would be the last time Jesus would pass that way. This was Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem, so Bartimaeus would not have another opportunity to have a one-on-one with him.

The Interpreter’s Bible tells us to be sure we seize the moment.

I immediately began thinking about many times in my life when I’ve not seized the moment. I’ve always had my reasons, of course. But now I’m trying to decide whether or not my reasons for missing some opportunities were good enough. And I’m asking myself, what is it that keeps me from seizing moments now?

Hoping to learn that I was not the ONLY person in the world who has this struggle, I decided to ask several friends what keeps them from seizing the moment.

“Fear” was high on the list of reasons for many folks — fear of what may happen, fear of failure, fear of change, fear of risk. Some said uncertainty about a decision — questioning if it’s the best thing to do — generally makes them afraid to act and so they don’t. One friend said: “Fear of what I think others are likely to think. Fear of disapproval by others has a paralyzing effect on my actions.” And still another said, “It’s when I evaluate things based on how I think others will think of me that I fail to seize the moment.”

Plain ol’ procrastination was the reason for some. Sometimes we put off seizing moments because of laziness. Or we hesitate to make a decision, so we put off thinking about it, only to realize later what should have been done or said. One friend said she likes to spend time in contemplation with God first thing in the morning, but some mornings she will think, “I’ll just do this one thing, and maybe just one more thing, and then I’ll get back to God.” But on mornings she does this, the day will be over, and she will not have even said good morning to Him.

Fretting over time rather than living in the eternal now keeps many from seizing the moment. In what I call the “Scarlett O’Hara” approach, we say, “Maybe tomorrow would be a better time,” but when tomorrow comes, it is too late. The moment, the opportunity, the possibility is gone with the wind.

Time excuses also can stem from stubbornness and rigidity or even indifference and inertia. As one friend put it: “My schedule is already too full, or there are already too many demands on my time. It’s easy to get so involved in the present moments that seem to cry for my attention, that I can fail to perceive a special opportunity to help someone.” Another said: “It didn’t seem that important at the time to follow through. It just didn’t register as anything special or offer any immediate interest.”

Sometimes it’s a matter of “my way” or “no way.” One friend said, “I had other plans at the time and didn’t want to change my plans.” I’m not saying changing our plans is always the thing to do in every situation, mind you, but still, perhaps it’s good to be flexible and spontaneous so that we leave some room for moments that could be seized.

How we view ourselves can greatly impact whether or not we seize moments. One friend said sometimes he looks more at his limitations and lets this view determine what he can do, think or appreciate. Such a view always makes us believe we don’t have the ability needed. Or we may just feel unworthy. Guilt often turns into an attitude of unworthiness.

Sometimes to seize or not to seize the moment becomes a battle of wills — human will or the divine. A friend said: “Maybe you know it’s right to do something, but you don’t let yourself. You let some reason sway you in a different direction.” She said she was reminded of the story of Jonah and the whale. “He tried to avoid seizing the moment and heeding God’s direction.”

But she did offer some good news and hope for those folks who are lamenting over moments they wish they had seized. She said, “If it’s a God-directed idea, I think the opportunity will arise again until it is acted upon.” Jonah did get a second opportunity to follow God’s direction.

Many people live their days so mired in the past or worried about the future that they remain unaware of the treasure of the present that they already possess. We can waste precious time worrying about some future moment. What often happens to me is that I worry about something that could happen. Then circumstances change, and whatever I was concerned about doesn’t even exist anymore. Priceless moments that could have been savored were lost. This reminds me of the song by Seals & Croft, “We may never pass this way again.” One verse encourages us to “Sail our ships out on the open seas, cast away our fears and all the years that come and go. … ” Yes, and enjoy each moment before it passes us by!

My husband and I have decided to not be so focused on making and saving money that we never take the time to enjoy life. And when we go on a vacation, we’re committed to being on vacation and not thinking about work waiting for us to do when we get home.

Savoring each moment of our lives brings joy and thankfulness for each life moment. I want to be willing to explore new territories, go places I’ve never been before. Life is fresh, exhilarating and full of limitless possibilities when we live fully and mindfully in the moment. Our comfort zone may be comfortable, but it also offers nothing new. As singer Lee Ann Womack sang, “And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”

It’s easier to seize the moment when we live our lives as minutemen and minutewomen. During the American Revolutionary War, the minuteman was an armed man pledged to be ready to fight on a minute’s notice. But being a minuteman is not about being in a hurry. Perhaps Americans have become too consumed by a need to hurry, evidenced by such inventions as airplanes, television, computers, email, microwave ovens, cell phones, express checkout lanes and fast food.

Being a minuteman and minutewoman is not dancing too fast. As someone put it, “Life is not a race.” Slow down and enjoy the dance. God will reveal to us the “what and how.” We need only be willing, waiting, faithful and obedient to seize the moment. God will do the rest.