The moment on the bridge

The moment on the bridge

After having seen the new movie “World Trade Center,” Rod Dreher recalls a life-defining moment on September 11, 2001, in which he gained clarity about the meaning and direction of his life.

In the end, I didn’t. I see now that it was hardly a choice at all. Every small decision I’d made leading up to that moment on the bridge made me the kind of man who would choose his family in this instance over his career. ... I’m not saying that my choice was more moral than others; I am saying, though, that all of us, whatever our vocation, will face a Bridge Moment at some point in our lives, when what (and who ... and Who) we really love will be made clear to us. The little choices we’ve made till that point will have made us the kind of men or women who will have the courage to do the right thing in that moment of testing.

Another way to describe the “little choices we’ve made” is as habits of grace. We avoid mortal sin by avoiding venial sin, but also by looking for opportunities of virtue. Which man is more likely to fall into adultery? The one who watches inappropriate sexual videos (trying to avoid the spammers with that euphemism), who ogles women in public, who talks trash with his buddies in the locker room, and who flirts with other women? Or the one who not only avoids those things, but also goes out of his way to show his wife how much he loves her and doesn’t take her granted and appreciates her for who she is, not how much she resembles the women on TV and in magazines?

At some point, a man could be presented with a choice or a temptation. It could be a choice between good and evil. Or, as in Rod’s case, it could be between two goods of different relative merit. Hopefully in such circumstances the real choice will have been made many years before and the choice of the moment is hardly any contest at all.

A friend who works in law enforcement once told me that he tells the cops he trains that the key to surviving a dangerous life-threatening situation is to envision only success and not just at the moment but beforehand. Professional athletes do this too. I’ll bet that Red Sox hitter David Ortiz envisions himself knocking homers out of Fenway not just when he’s at the plate or even at batting practice, but at home in the shower and when he’s eating breakfast and as he’s falling to sleep at night.

We have to make habits of grace and virtue and successful choices. Because it’s in all those little opportunities and choices where the hero is really made, not just when the Moment comes.

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