I have developed a funny little habit, somewhere at the start of each day, to announce aloud the day of week. Today is Tuesday. Today is Wednesday, and so forth. Since my schedule has been cleared of all activities, and the days of the weeks run together with little variation, I find it somehow comforting to announce what day it is. Coming up with the date is becoming increasingly harder. I read somewhere, “Is today Tuesday, or is it June?” That question reiterates my point.
As if to take the game of keeping track of time to an advanced level, the clock stopped. In my kitchen hangs a grand, old 19th century school clock. It has two slender brass hands that rotate around the chipped face and a weighted pendulum that swings to a rhythmic tick tock, tick tock, all throughout its weekly cycle. I love the comforting sound that fills the house. It resounds with memories of childhood, but also of security and order. Little by little as the week progresses, the clock slows, and I slip a butterfly key into a crank hole to wind it up again. Although it does not keep time with pinpoint accuracy, it is the time piece I use to tell if I am running ahead or behind schedule. With it, I determine the productivity of the day. Have I accomplished everything I intended before the clock strikes 5:00? One day, several weeks ago, when the rest of the world stopped, I forgot to wind it. So there it sat, stuck at 2:38. Suddenly I was off the clock.
I hate to admit, in the midst of other people’s suffering in the pandemic, I was experiencing a new freedom. For in this strange suspension in time, this window between what was before and what is to come, I have been completely free to enjoy the moment, without a nagging thought that I am behind, or late, or required to meet any future expectation. Today – this present moment – is my primary focus and it has my full attention.
Morning: Sunlight slants through the bedroom shade, glinting in my eyes. Time to get up. Time for coffee.
Afternoon: Sunlight lingers long and slender through the branches casting cool shadows across the grass. Time to rest from the daily activity. Time to feed the dog.
Evening: Sunlight fades over the western horizon and an indigo sky deepens in the east. Time to go inside. Time to make dinner.
And all the while it’s still 2:38. But time hasn’t stopped. It has been in a beautiful movement drawing me into it, asking me to notice small details that tell of time, but without judgement or demand or comparison. It asks me to be a part of it, instead of racing against it. And while I am busy watching the brilliance of morning come and go, and the arrival of a serene nightfall, it is hard to feel chastened by what was or was not accomplished in the interval between. Whatever it was, it was enough for today.
While a little perplexed and curious, I think what I have been experiencing is a shift from “chronos” time – the steady sequential movement of the seconds, minutes, hours and days– to “Kairos” time, the perfect movement of God in the present moment. The idea of Kairos can mean many things according to its ancient, philosophical past. In the New Testament, it is the perfectly, opportune time when God acts. Often characterized by challenge or hardship, it is also a welcome time, a season of fruitfulness, the decisive moment of change. It is the crossroads where God’s eternal workings intersect space and time but are not confined by them. It is a holy intersection, and it requires a shift in us to see it, to feel it.
But most of us already know what Kairos is – that full, pregnant step into God’s time, when suddenly the ticking of the clock becomes strangely irrelevant. The unexpected transfer that happens on a walk, in a creative endeavor, while gardening, in prayer, dancing, and a myriad of other ways I haven’t yet discovered. That intensified pivot when our heart becomes open to God’s movement, and suddenly we are unaware of time. It is perfect for that moment, and we know that something new is being born in us.
What will we do with this new experience? What does God want us to do in this opportune time? That is a good question. Now as the world begins to wind up again, and we contemplate how to reconstruct our schedules, what will the rhythm of the world look like? Will we rush back into a frenetic pace with so little time for those around us, so little notice of who they are, who we are? Will we throw away time with those most important, because we cannot forgive or ask forgiveness? Will we let time master our sense of identity, lying to us that we are losing ground and growing old, as if there is really such a thing in God’s kingdom? (What if with each Kairos moment we are actually growing new?) Will we trade our precious days and nights for some mean endeavor that demoralizes us? Will we squander current relationships, wishing for the past, or the future, pining for more or less, something, anything other than what we have? I am challenged with the idea of how to spend my time going forward. The days in front of us offer us a new opportunity to forge ahead in a new way. We don’t have to do it as before.
One thing is sure. I do not intend to waste this time. I want to be fully present to it. I want to enjoy the details that are immediately within my grasp. Who and what has God supplied for this day? What does He want me to do with these gifts? If I am open to this Kairos, this movement of God in this time between what was before and what is to come, I can embrace it. Time is at hand, and God wants to do something important in us. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says “Now is the time (Kairos) of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” No indeed, we do not want to waste this time.
Today is Tuesday. How shall we spend the gift of this present day? What harvest is ripe for the picking? How shall we be today?
Time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand,
let us turn from what is behind
and believe the good news.
Note on the Title: I actually wrote this on a Tuesday… but posted it later. Somehow, “Today is Friday” didn’t sound as good as “Today is Tuesday”. So I left it. Just so you’ll know I haven’t completely lost track of time.