Ah, London. So thick with culture, so marked by time. Even the skyline is dominated by the constant ticking away of life as Big Ben pushes ever onward. For a girl who has a love-hate relationship with to-do lists (fluctuating back and forth between productivity and procrastination), the clock seems like either a dependable ally or a big fat bully, depending on the day.* Believe it or not, the gospel comes to bear on our daily rhythms and how we navigate them.
As we are born into God’s family, adopted as daughters and sons, our souls are set on a new kind of schedule: kairos (ky-ross). We enter the deep heritage of Christ’s sense of timing, and it doesn’t rush or bustle or stress itself out. Kairos allows for a quiet settling of the heart in the good and capable power of God. While chronos (craw-noss) is the word that used to define our days, a second-by-second accounting for our plans, kairos moves into the realm of appropriate seasons. Jesus, who arrived in the fullness of time, operated with this mentality when He said things like, “My time has not yet fully come” (John 7:8) and “My time is at hand” (Matthew 26:18). It’s the thread of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (and the resulting song—’Turn, Turn, Turn’—by the Byrds). Mordecai urged Esther to behave as though she had been established in power for such a time as this. Kairos expands our souls, and we keep watch for the cadence of kingdom time.
But chronos doesn’t stop. Your alarm still jolts you awake. The supper can last for only so many minutes in the oven before getting burned. That big meeting marches closer, unaware of any time but its own. As citizens of the now-but-not-yet, we operate between the two tempos. We make the playdate happen at 3:00 on Tuesday, but we fully engage our souls in that relationship until we say goodbye. We show up to class ready to learn first thing in the morning, and we lose track of the clock as we steep ourselves in this small step of faithfulness, neurons firing and pencils moving. It’s not one or the other—it’s both. Keeping our ears cocked upward, we feel when it’s right to shift from chronos to kairos, even for a moment (like gently listening to that weepy coworker on your break).
This tale of two times can help us prepare to approach God’s Word more fully than by simply picking out an arbitrary chronos marking. Let’s explore them both, shall we?
First, a little self-awareness. When do you feel most alive, excited, alert, receptive? (If you’re clueless, no worries—run an experiment this week and tune in to this aspect of your mind at different times throughout the day. Run the full gamut: try getting up earlier than usual one morning to check if you’re an early bird, and stay up late—on probably a different evening—to notice if night owl tendencies rule.) We’re all built differently, and it’s not helpful to establish a chronos time that doesn’t work for you. Take into consideration any adjustments you’ll need to make to best take advantage of these moments. Meeting with God is worth establishing some boundaries, and you’ll be so glad you did.
Chronos might say 9 am is best for you on a typical day, but what if kairos notices a season of severe depression, when you really just don’t want to pull yourself out of bed? Or if you’re so chronically exhausted from family activities that you can’t think straight? Or if this week finds you mid-crisis, and the thought of studying Scripture makes you want to laugh and then bawl hysterically? Though I wish none of this was possible, we’re walking the tired earth with tired hearts.
If you’re in a hard place, please be gentle with yourself. As your own primary spiritual caretaker (under the Holy Spirit), you have a responsibility to lead yourself well. I’m not saying that in the darkness, you’re excused from soaking in the Word—you might actually need it more then than normal. But give yourself permission to let it look different. I recently heard of a woman in unutterable grief who set an alarm on her phone every hour with a different verse to read out loud three times. Day after excruciating day, Scripture was her lifeline, and those passages have become treasures to her.
Allow kairos to influence how your time with the Lord is shaped. (Jesus is just as content to sit on the ground and weep with you as He is to illuminate the meaning of a Hebrew word.)
To get really practical here, I’ll adapt a bit of advice I got from a counselor: when it comes to setting time aside for digging into God’s Word, have three daily goals to choose from—a minimum goal (for the days you honestly don’t even want to brush your teeth), a medium goal (that will be able to be met on ye average day), and a maximum goal (for those rare, golden days when everything is going right). For instance, my three goals are five minutes, twenty minutes, and an hour. Don’t get snared in legalism or obligation or what you think she’s writing down. Just listen for what the Spirit is leading you to do for this season. (You can always rework your plan later.) Post your goals in the space you created last week. No matter what kind of day you’re having, you’ve got an established option on paper about how to proceed.
Last little thing—five minutes that I do spend bathing my mind in Scripture is better than an hour I don’t. Please sense the invitation of God here in this exercise. He doesn’t want you to associate your time together with guilt or performance or anything other than delighting in Him and letting Him delight in you. Don’t despise the day of small things—it’s one of His favorite haunts.
*Personal note: When I’m enjoying a day without plans, an actual sabbath, I sometimes put tape over the clocks. It’s a good reminder to my heart that I have a Master who wants me to rest.