By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Never underestimate the power of the small book. Consider the impact of writings such as Homer’s The Odyssey, Harriett Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and George Orwell’s 1984. Their topics are complex, difficult, and one is even dystopian, and they have impacted not just our culture, but our planet. By contrast, recently I was given a small book as a gift by a woman who helps to restore trafficked women, which is an undertaking that at times is so daunting and dark on its own that I doubt 1984 is on her nightstand right now. The book is called Holy Moments, A Handbook for the Rest of Your Life, by Matthew Kelly, and it is only 115 pages long. It is a keeper, and I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about it.
On the surface, its premise is ridiculously simple. We can choose to partner with God to create “holy moments,” or we can choose to create “unholy moments,” which damage those around us as well as we ourselves. “Holy moments,” which Kelly describes as being “tiny collaborations with God” or a “mini-transfiguration,” are described as follows:
A Holy Moment is a single moment in which you open yourself to God. You make yourself available to Him. You set aside personal preference and self-interest, and for one moment you do what you prayerfully believe God is calling you to do.
Kelly is quick to point out that having preferences with regard to food, music, vacations, books sports, TV shows or movies, or clothing styles are not the problem. It is when our preferences are inserted into the places that can only be fulfilled by our divine purpose that we come up short, empty, and selfish. He says further: Some moments are holy, some moments are unholy, and our choices can guide a moment in either direction. It doesn’t get much plainer than that.
I have found over the years that I especially appreciate authors who quote other authors perhaps because the other one just “said it better.” Matthew did that for me when he quoted a South African author by the name of Laurens van der Post, who said:
There is ultimately only one thing that makes human beings deeply and profoundly bitter, and that is to have thrust upon them a life without meaning. There is nothing wrong in searching for happiness. But of far more comfort to the soul is something greater than happiness or unhappiness, and that is meaning. Because meaning transfigures all. Once what you are doing has meaning for you, it is irrelevant whether you’re happy or unhappy. You are content.
Obviously doing “what has meaning” has to be defined by that which is good, and that which is good must always be determined by the only One who is good, and that ain’t us humans. The great irony is that doing good feels really good, but the serotonin-dopamine-oxytocin burst that we experience when we participate in Holy Moments can’t be our motivation, as wonderful as are the side effects.
Simply stated, we were created to do good, and doing good is what makes us what we were designed to be in the first place — our “true selves.” This is especially important in the face of something as evil as children being gunned down at a school or at a 16th-birthday party, or as seemingly non-consequential as paying for the coffee of the person behind you in the drive-thru who will never be able to thank you. It all has a compound effect, and this little “handbook” can help you get better at it. Enjoy!