But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
-2 Peter 3:8-9
Does anybody really know what time it is?
Does anybody really care?
If so I can’t imagine why
We’ve all got time enough to cry.
-”Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” by Chicago
A year ago, I made a terrible mistake. I taught my then-four-year-old how to read the digital clock on the oven. Specifically, I taught him that bedtime would happen when the first number on the clock was 7.
The terrible mistake was this: armed with the knowledge that bedtime began when the clock said 7:__, my child now refused to go to bed early for any reason. Had he skipped his nap that day? Was he sick? Had it been an extra exhausting day? None of those were compelling reasons to start the bedtime routine before the clock struck 7.
I’m not exactly proud of the solution I devised, but it did work: whenever it was clear to me that he needed to go to bed early, I changed the clock. A few taps of the buttons, and 6:15 became 6:55. The time wasn’t accurate, but it was right: bedtime needed to come in just a few minutes.
The Bible has two different words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos is the time that we’re used to, measured in minutes and hours and days. Chronos is precise. It doesn’t change. Kairos, however, is the kind of time that comes when the time is right, whatever the clock says. Kairos is subjective: my timing might not be your timing which might not be God’s timing. Kairos says that one person’s time for grief might be longer than another’s, and that both timings are right. Kairos says that a sixteen-year-old and a sixty-year-old might both, at the same moment, need time for figuring out what their life needs next. And, I daresay, kairos might even say that it’s bedtime now.
Kairos is about God’s timing, not about our schedules. Kairos says that God might call one person to discipleship through baptism as an infant, and one person through confirmation class as a teenager, and one person through a quiet persistent inner tug in their 40s, and one person through Bible study at the Senior Center. The timing is different, but the timing is right because the timing is God’s. Kairos means that we do not get to compare our faith timeline to anybody else’s. Their faith, their life: they are unfolding according to God’s kairos, not our chronos.
Your life and your faith, too, are unfolding according to God’s timing, not your schedule. This might frustrate you. It might frustrate other people. It doesn’t frustrate God. God is patient with us even when we are not. God takes God’s time to work according to kairos, not chronos. Sometimes that means things take longer than we want. Sometimes it means things go far more quickly than we expected. Sometimes, God might just change the clock in order to overcome our stubborn attachment to our schedules. Whatever the time, whatever the chronos, God is working the kairos for us, God’s beloved.
God, I know that your time is not the same as mine. When I feel impatient, give me patience. When I feel rushed, give me peace. In everything, help me trust your timing. Amen.