This month I had the pleasure of re-reading a great book by Henri Nouwen, entitled Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit. In this book Nouwen describes what he calls “the way of the heart.” In one particularly thoughtful chapter, he discusses how our relationship with time can lead either to anxiety or peace.
Just think of some of the words we use to describe time: waste of time, killing time, crunch time, pressed for time, race against time, time is money. Nouwen comments, “It seems we no longer have any time, but time has us. When time is only chronos, we don’t have time to do all the things we need to do, and our schedule is a burden… There is no time for friendship, for blessing, for celebration. Time needs to be converted from chronos to kairos – an opportunity for a change of heart.”
Reading this helped me think about my daily activities in a new way. For example Nouwen shares, “To start seeing that the many events of our day, week, or year are not obstacles to a full and meaningful life, but the way to it, is a real experience of conversion. Once we discover that even the seemingly routine aspects of our day” (conversations with friends or strangers, opportunities to be helpful, to share a kind word, to evoke a smile), “and even doing the dishes are not a series of random activities but contain within themselves the transforming power of re-creation, we move from time lived as chronos to time lived as kairos (right time…the opportunity for change, the chance of a lifetime).
In the New Testament we see the word kairos showing up in some very important places. Nouwen notes, “Jesus opens his ministry with these words: “the time has come…” (Mark 1:15). He lives each moment of life as an opportunity to make all things new. Even physical death is transformed into resurrected life, as Jesus liberates human history from mere chronology to kairos – God’s time, where past, present, and future merge in the present moment.”
Finally, as we celebrate Thanksgiving this month, keep these promises in mind: “This is God’s world. Time is in God’s hands. History has a purpose.” In all things God is working for good (Rom. 8:28). As Nouwen so wisely observes, “what seem to be just chipped pieces of marble are really patterns in the mosaic of God’s work in our lives. With the eyes of faith we can learn from the events of our life…even hard and painful times can be converted as occasions for learning, shaping influences forming us into the persons we are and leading us (again and again) to God, the Source of healing and salvation.”