For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. -Ecclesiastes 3:1
In the past two days, I have realized why human beings love to “tell time.”
In our elementary years, we spend weeks learning to read clocks that humans made from sundials, turning hands that became digital numbers flashing every second. Many of us carry these numbers on our wrists, so we are never lost from the track of time. We like to feel certain about where we are in our trajectory of the day, week, season, lifetime.
Yesterday, I woke up without my alarm clock because my body’s rhythms were thrown off by daylight savings. For the entirety of the day, both my body and my cell phone refused to adjust to our changed hour! I felt like I was living in a parallel universe one hour behind the rest of the world. It occurred to me that time is a social construct, one that we have assigned numbers to reconcile our fear of uncertainty and need for control.
The Greek refer to our linear time as “chronos,” or chronological time. This order of time has a sense of control and order. Consider how we speak about time, for example; we refer to it as a commodity, as if we can own it. We save time when we use technology, or we spend time when we “invest” our concentration in something. Yet do we ever own the minutes or hours of our precious lives? Are we ever truly in control of the way our lives progress, sunrise to sunset?
In my own life, I have realized that there is something that guides me through my day, even when I forget to check the clock. My heartbeat and breath keep in rhythm to tell me time is passing. My body tells me when I need to sleep, and deeper within, my heart tells me when I need to call my mom or get a hug from a friend. There is wisdom guiding us in each moment – if we choose to listen.
This order of time is called “kairos,” or “the appointed time in the purpose of God.” Consider the way nature tells time. There is no sense of controlled order, as the seasons vary annually and each leaf falls at its own pace. Animals migrate according to their instincts without need for certainty. The life and death cycles of every living being operate without their consent, yet life continues gracefully.
Kairos is expressed in the Ecclesiastes verse telling us “there is a time for everything.” How can I trust that no matter what happens, it is meant to happen in this moment? How can I trust that every moment has a meaning?
Tonight, I shared a moment in my yoga class that helped to understand these questions. During class, we spoke with a friend about pivotal moments from our past, and then our friend reframed in a positive light as part of our “hero’s journey.” My partner showed me that all the suffering and trials of the past contributed to my sense of connectedness today. Our class tonight showed me that there is Love beneath all circumstances. This Love works in its own time, beyond human comprehension, and we must trust its kairos.
Last night before bed, these words came to me in a poem. I hope that they speak to the meaning of turning clocks in the heart.
The universe unfolds in mysterious ways.
How can words suffice to explain
this mix of pleasure and pain, joy and strife
that seeps from the cracks of a broken life?
The voices echo in mazes of my mind
so loudly that wisdom is hard to find.
So I try
to make sense of what surpasses my senses
to see what is beyond my sight.
Wrapped up in personality and perceived causality, we forget
we live in divine reality.
We can’t turn the clocks back enough hours
to unleash that unlimited power.
The Love that lights the lonely nights
and gives vision to searching sights
is the eternal giver of time.
It is the bodiless presence in space that makes
my small human heart race.
No clock lies above divine Love.
It is the power that tells us to
jump off the cliff into caring arms
and surrender to find true strength.
Come, now, it is time
to lose and find your way.