Our days are full of time. Our days are chronological, even if not always logical. We wake up. We eat breakfast. We head to school, work or appointments. Every day is guided by the unceasing second hand that, rather morbidly, is always counting us down, even as the years add up.
The New Testament speaks of time in two ways. There is chronos (i.e., chronology, the movement of time by clock and calendar) and there is kairos (i.e., the opportune time, the right moment).
Time ticks along. But time, Isaac Watts reminds us, “sweeps away all things with it which are not immortal.”
Have you ever looked ahead with anticipation at an event, a day, a moment on the calendar, a time on the clock? Suddenly, it’s over. Chronos is a thief. It steals forever the moment, and it’s gone. A memory is all that remains, and even it fades with, well, time.
Just the right time
But there are a handful of times in our lives that are “just the right time” – moments when the immortal invades and stakes its claim on our analogue or digital realities. And they are game changers; life-transforming moments that define the trajectory of our linear days from that moment forward.
These are the “just the right times” that propel us into a land time forgets. Kairos does not necessarily mark a calendar, but it does mark our souls.
We unsuspectingly engage a conversation no one could have orchestrated. We end up in a situation too good to be true. We avoid an accident, or end up in one. We make a decision that seemed right at the chronos, but that proves disastrous and leaves us asking questions we never would have considered had time not let us down or conspired against us.
Kairos interrupts, and our “on time” gets inverted into “the right time.”
These are opportune times, and everyone has them, but few of us maximize them. Further, few of us have people in our lives to help us make the most of them. We’re busy running by the clock, but Jesus made disciples in these moments.
Matthew 26:17–18 reads this way: On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house’” (italics added).
Guess what word “appointed time” is? Yup: kairos.
There had been other Passovers, but none like this one. This was the teachable moment, the moment of liminality, of stretching and growing, of unravelling and redefining. Something unforgettable and transforming was happening.
Heaven breaking in
Over and over again, Jesus makes kairos out of what seems nothing. Some fishermen are having a bad day on the water. Zacchaeus climbs a tree. A blind man screams to be healed. Some blokes with a paralyzed friend push through the crowds. Children scramble to be near him.
Sometimes we call these interruptions. Jesus made them kairos. They weren’t interruptions, but heaven breaking in. What if, in the similar times of our lives, these moments are when we are finally open to transformation?
Jesus maximized these otherwise mundane moments in a chronological world. He even seemed determined to upset chronos.
He determinedly sent his disciples into situations they didn’t know what to do with. He seemed to enjoy manufacturing kairos that would stretch and grow his followers.
In those times, their only hope was to commune with God, learn his reign, find their cross to carry, learn love and grace, trust the new community and be strengthened for the commission to go.
One of the keys to making disciples is awakening them to God’s timely use of these kairos moments. There is tick-tock-tick-tock, and there are moments when the alarm clock blares. Maximize those moments. After all, you know Jesus has done this more than once in your time.
Phil Wagler lives in Surrey, B.C., where he and his family are part of Gracepoint Community Church. He serves as training and team health team leader with MB Mission and keeps getting surprised by God’s opportune use of time.