The difference a day makes | Greg Asimakoupoulos

A few thoughts on Leap Year.

It didn’t dawn on me until just recently that Leap Year always coincides with the year we elect a president. It’s also the same year the Summer Olympics are held. Every fourth year we gain an extra day. And with all that takes place every fourth year, it’s probably a good thing we are given more time to process what’s going on around us.

As we’ve been told, leap year occurs because Earth’s orbit around the sun and its rotation on its axis are not perfectly in line. It takes our planet 365.24 days to orbit the sun, but our Gregorian calendar consists of 365 days. So, in order to synchronize the calendar with the solar year, an extra day is added every four years.

So how do you spend that additional day? Do you treat it as a personal holiday and take it off from work? Or perhaps you have family traditions that have evolved over the years that you observe on the 29th day of February. Have you ever thought of latching on to Leap Year as a means of creating a custom that is unique to the sphere of influence who orbit your life?

Given the divisive and contentious nature of the presidential campaign, this bonus day might well be used as an opportunity to pray for unity in our nation as the election season plays out. Even though the first Thursday in May is recognized each year as the National Day of Prayer, perhaps we could use a second day of prayer for our country every fourth year. Why not make February 29 that day?

Another way that we might profitably invest in 24 added hours is to see it as a milepost on our personal pilgrimage. It makes sense to see this extra day as a rest stop in our non-stop lives to reflect on where we’ve come from. While the campaign season every four years invites us to look ahead, the last day of February each year could easily be designated a day for looking back. It can be a day for taking stock of how God has used circumstances and people to shape the person we’ve become.

A friend of mine has good cause to look back each time February 29 appears on the calendar. It was on that day in 1948 that Hugh Steven had a spiritual encounter that changed the direction of his life. Entering into a personal relationship with his Creator, this seventeen-year-old employee of Woodward Stores in Vancouver began to pray for a sense of direction in his career path.

As he began to read the Scripture, Hugh discovered meaningful verses that gave him cause to trust the object of faith. He became convinced that God would guide his future. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminded him that faith was the key to unlock doors of opportunity. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths.”

This one who found faith on February 29 found the 29th chapter of Jeremiah to be a harbinger of hope. Imagine the inner confidence Hugh embraced as his eyes focused on these words: “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give hope and a future.”

Although born to a single mother and adopted as a two-year-old by an unchurched couple, Hugh became a missionary statesman traveling the world as a photojournalist and writing more than forty books. Next month he will turn 93. He is currently writing his next book in addition to editing a book manuscript for a friend. How’s that for a leap of faith?

This week Hugh Steven will be reflecting on a wonderful life that was set in motion on another February 29, seventy-six years ago. A life that includes a woman to whom he has been married for 73 years and four grown children. And I ought to know. I married his oldest child.

So, what about you? How might you make the most of the bonus day you’ve given this year? Consider it a rest stop on whatever journey you find yourself.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is a former chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.