Split Seconds
written by Rev Gary Heard

There was probably not much more than a metre in it. As the car commenced a right hand turn across three lanes of traffic, I applied my brakes, but there was insufficient room to stop before a collision occurred. The resulting bump was not much more than the jolt from a dodgem car, but the damage to the front of my car looked much different. If I had arrived a second or so earlier or later, the outcome would have been different, either making for a more serious collision, or perhaps avoiding one altogether.

What curious coincidences of events bring people together in different ways, whether in an automobile accident, or by “chance” meetings.

Our newspapers have been flooded with stories of near-misses over recent years: those who stepped out of the Sari nightclub in Bali, or the World Trade Centre towers only moments before the tragic events unfolded; people who intended to be in one place but were deviated from their course by delays – missing a train or airplane, catching a red light - a moment’s delay significantly changing the life of the people concerned.
We are used to seeing people’s lives changed by significant moments: the athlete beaten for a  gold medal by less than one-tenth of a second, or disqualified for leaving the starting blocks too early by a similar span of time. Those critical moments have shaped careers and reputations – split-second decisions with an impact seemingly out-of-proportion to the amount of time taken to make them. But we rarely ascribe such moment to our own decisions and seconds.

In reality the moment of decision is always a short one – precious seconds in which a critical response is made to information gathered over a much longer period of time. Political careers are made and unmade on the basis of such critical moments. Human relationships can equally be made and unmade in such short spans of time.

Our diaries are filled with hours, evenings and days, yet it is the immeasurable moments which have much more impact. Much of life is spent preparing for such moments, whose time of arrival is, more often than not, unable to be predicted.

Truth be known, every small moment carries potential significance beyond imagining – and we ultimately do not know which ones will be the most important of all. You wonder then, at those who missed their opportunity to meet the babe of Bethlehem, perhaps passing within metres without being aware.

To miss the presence of God, for lack of a still moment of awareness....

December 15, 2002
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