Another busy week and I feel at times as though I am running on the spot accomplishing very little. At times like this I need to remember what is really important in life. Reading this email reflection sent to me by my friend Doug Woods after he read Mark Buchanan’s latest book The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath certainly restored my soul and made me want to dip into Mark’s book too…but maybe I am too busy.
As I stepped outside this morning I was bathed in the sounds of a sweet spring symphony performed in perfect harmony by an invisible multitude of birds. The air was soft and crisp and the heavy marine layer overhead made the light so even that the colors leapt out of every flower and leaf clamoring for attention. In an instant I was in Mexico – years ago – on spring break building houses with a youth group – only this time I was not smelly or aching – I was simply inhabiting the imprint of a sacred time – the mark of time steeped in God – the thumb print of Kairos.
There are two types of time: Kronos and Kairos. Kronos (or Chronos as in chronology) was the name of the father of Zeus who is famous for devouring his children. Kronos is our everyday time – our day planner time. Kronos is our time spent grasping at the straws of our lives and the time squandered in the vain pursuit of recapturing time that we have already lost. Kronos is our time of desperate striving, struggling to avoid being devoured – and yet we always are. Every time we grab hold of our schedule and wrestle it to the floor it evaporates and we are left with nothing. That is Kronos – he swallows his children whole and before he can burp he is ravenous again.
Kairos is different. Kairos is sacred time. Kairos is time dedicated to God. A time that does not aim at creating, but being instead re-created. Kairos is time spent in imitation of God, time spent following God’s examples of Rest and Peace and Play and Community. Kairos is Shalom. Kairos is Sabbath. Kronos leaves no marks on us – it just swallows us whole, but Kairos leaves a mark. Kairos changes who we are. With Kronos we can never return but with Kairos we can go back. With Kairos we can capture that sacred moment again and again. If you think about it you stumble over those marks all the time: remembering the first kiss of your beloved; or the wonder of seeing your child born; or that one sunset that made you stop the car and get out and watch and watch and watch until it was dark; or that triple rainbow that made you forget the worry and struggle of the day and just sit or stand and watch in silent wonder; or the song or verse that pierced your heart with grace so pure that to this very day it brings tears to your eyes and makes your heart swell with love and wonder. That is Kairos. That is the imprint of a sacred time.
The sages equate sinning with “going down to Egypt” and returning to the slavery of Pharaoh. We were delivered from that slavery. In the same way, when we spend the precious few moments we have on this planet vainly chasing after the last few we have left, we are returning to the slavery of time – we are climbing up into the lap of Kronos and begging to be devoured. He always obliges us. This culture of ours demands that we be devoured and tells us the lie that the only way to be safe is in the belly of Kronos. God asks us – no, God knows us better than to simply ask – God Commands us to devote 1/7th of our time to Him – to spend, to surrender, to submit, to sacrifice every 7th day (at a minimum) to Him. This is not for Him – none of the commandments are for him – but for us. He knows us – he knows that we would rather be swallowed alive than spend a single moment in dumb wonder. He knows that we are insanely utilitarian with out time. So he commands us not to be.
When we cut through all the clutter of dreams and visions and plans and worries and the utilitarian necessities that plague us, the heart and soul of what we are about up on Camano island is Kairos. Sacred time. Time sacrificed to God. The Hebrew root of the word for sacrifice means to “draw near”. We are simply about creating opportunities, now and for all the time we have left on this planet, to draw near to God; opportunities to be recreated, to be marked by the fingerprints of God Himself. We are about creating those opportunities to both be alone and silent before the Throne and to stand there in community – so that we can learn a little about living in the the proximity of God.