Saturday, January 1, 2011

Real Time/Clock Time

I love when you pick up a book and it speaks clearly to you in your present circumstance. This has happened to me many times with all types of books, and it has taught me to read with a sense of expectation.

This evening as I was continuing Henri Nouwen's Turn My Mourning Into Dancing, I read this passage that discusses time - real time and clock time. Could there be a more suitable subject to ponder on New Year's Day? Nouwen writes:

"Hope that grows out of trust puts us in a different relationship to the hours and days of our lives. We are constantly tempted to look at time as chronology, as chronos, as a series of disconnected incidents and accidents. This is one way we think we can manage time or subdue our tasks. Or a way that we feel the victims of our schedules. For this approach also means that time becomes burdensome. We divide our time into minutes and hours and weeks and let its compartments dominate us.

As still not completely converted people we immerse ourselves in clock time. Time becomes a means to an end, not moments in which to enjoy God or pay attention to others. And we end up believing that the real thing is always still to come. Time for celebrating or praying or dreaming gets squeezed out. No wonder we get fatigued and deflated! No wonder we sometimes feel helpless or impoverished in our experience of time.

But the gospel speaks of 'full' time. What we are seeking is already here...We begin to see history not as a collection of events interrupting what we 'must' get done. We see time in light of faith in the God of history. We see how the events of this year are not just a series of incidents and accidents, happy or unhappy, but the molding hands of God, who wants us to grow and mature.

Time has to be converted, then, from chronos, mere chronological time, to kairos, a New Testament Greek word that has to do with opportunity, with moments that seem ripe for their intended purpose, Then, even while life continues to seem harried, while it continues to have hard moments, we say, 'Something good is happening amid all this.' We get glimpses of how God might be working out his purposes in our days. Time becomes not just something to get through or manipulate or manage, but the arena of God's work with us. Whatever happens - good things or bad, pleasant or problematic - we look and ask, 'What might God be doing here?' We see the events of the day as continuing occasions to change the heart. Time points to Another and begins to speak to us of God.

We are part of a very impatient culture, however. We want many things and we want them quickly. And we feel that we should be able to take away the pains, heal the wounds, fill the holes, and create experiences of great meaningfulness - now. It is not difficult to discover how impatient we are...But a view of time as kairos helps us to be patient in believing. If we are patient in this sense we can look at all events of each day - expected or unexpected - as holding a promise for us. Patience becomes in us the attitude that says that we cannot force life but have to let it grow by its own time and development. Patience lets us see the people we meet, the events of the day, and the unfolding history of our times all part of that slow process of growth."

As the calendar turns to a new year and another birthday looms in its wake, I tuck these words into my heart for meditation and inspiration. To be completely converted to live in kairos rather than that would be something.

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