A Spiritual Pacemaker for the New Year
Normally, I love the feeling of a clean slate at the start of the new year. But this year, as I did my reflections, I found myself feeling quite sad instead. As much as I’d like to close the door on 2018 and move on—- there are a number of things that I take with me into 2019: children with health issues, a daughter with adulting angst, team struggles, dear friends who are battling for marriages or wayward children, the transitions of aging parents, the teenager-about-to-leave-home friction (in twin form).
The truth is, a new year isn’t exactly a clean slate—- we take our problems and our messy selves into the new year as well. But the good news is that we carry our faithful God with us as well. Or it might be better to say HE is carrying US forward into this new year.
This new year I find myself pondering the mystery of God’s timing. There are an extraordinary number of moving parts in my life that I cannot seem to fit together…. and believe me, I’ve tried. It’s like all the timings are off. Some parts of my life are heading into full bloom and fruitfulness. Other areas, I seem to be getting traction, then I’m sidetracked by a crisis. In certain areas of struggle, we seem to be headed for a breakthrough, then things slide backward again. I started the year at a full sprint on one project, then ended the year having stopped it altogether. And our team is all over the map: one preparing for sabbatical, one newly arrived, potentials not quite ready to make the leap, several in intense life crises–no one is in synch with each other
The New Testament uses two different Greek words in Scripture to describe time:
- CHRONOS… The Greek word which signified linear, chronological time. Days, months, years, seasons.
- KAIROS…The Greek word meaning ‘the moment that is right for something to occur.’ A time when things are brought to a crisis or climax.
Honestly, all my life strategizing is bound by CHRONOS right now. From a human perspective — the convergence of timings on some of these things feels ridiculous. God is doing amazing things in some places and incredibly slow to act in others.
As we stand at the beginning of a new year, I find myself longing for my heart to beat to the rhythm of God’s heart — to the heartbeat of KAIROS.
What would it mean if we gave ourselves over to live in God’s timing in this new year?
God’s Timing is usually unexpected.
As we look at the lives of the saints of Scripture and history, most were in the middle of ordinary life, keyed into CHRONOS— raising children, planting their fields, paying their taxes– when BAM God showed up and invites them into a KAIROS moment. Follow me! Do something crazy! Tear down your family’s alter to that false god! Build an ark! Carry this baby at risk of death!
And they had a choice— risk everything on this God invitation or politely decline and go back to building their own little earthy kingdoms— watching netflix… posting selfies on facebook… buying new things for the house… advancing their careers.
These were people caught up in the material world in front of them, and God was inviting them to tune into a different realm. And following those God invitations would wreak havoc on their well-ordered CHRONOS lives.
God’s timing is not usually EARLY.
To get an idea of God’s timelines– just review how long it took from the first promise of a Messiah (Genesis 3) until his arrival in baby form to a poor Jewish family (Luke 1). Jesus certainly didn’t arrive EARLY by human standards. For centuries, generation after generation hoped that THIS would be the year the Messiah would come. And generation after generation died still holding on to that Promise.
I don’t know anyone who isn’t WAITING for something: Healing. A spouse to make movement towards God. Relief from a depression or anxiety. A change in someone’s heart. Financial breakthrough. A change in political regime.
What happens in the waiting for God’s timing? Our faith expands. Our trust in God’s goodness expands. Our desperation increases. We know— if this comes through, it’s because GOD is behind it. God’s timing (KAIROS) is perfect because it’s bringing about multiple purposes— not just the direct answer to our prayer.
We can try to Force God’s Timing.
Often God would give people a promise then nothing would happen for decades. Think of Abraham. He was invited to be that father of many nations, says yes, and then years pass, decades pass… and eventually his wife is too old to even have children. Abraham gets impatient, and decides to bring about God’s promise on his own terms— with his wife’s slave.
We do that— don’t we? We try to take things into our own hands to bring about God’s promises. How many of you are holding promises for a loved one— a parent, a child, or a friend who desperately needs Jesus— and you’ve tired of waiting. In an effort to help God out, we decide to tell others what THEY need to do to live into God’s promises? God’s revelations in CHRONOS, don’t necessarily mean a KAIROS moment for delivery.
Some of us need to learn to WAIT for God’s timing.
How many times are we trying to force something to be birthed before it’s ready? We need to be tuned into KAIROS— to understand where something is in the formation of God’s plan.
Think about WAITING on God like we wait on a little baby to grow in her mother’s tummy. From conception to birth, it will take roughly 10 months for a baby to grow til full term. If that baby comes at 6 months, it will have serious problems. Organs won’t be formed or mature and the baby won’t be able to survive.
The CHRONOS of 10 months is critical for the health of a baby. The mother is expanding the whole time but most importantly, the baby is developing in a safe place so that it can be birthed into life in health.
Jesus knew about KAIROS. On his last night with the disciples, Jesus told them, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them right now…” He knew what the disciples could bear. Following God’s timing means we need to be keyed READINESS of the hearts around us, before we speak.
But some of us need to learn to ACT when God speaks.
While some of us like to bring things about in our own timing, others will sit for too long even AFTER God has made something clear.
- Maybe we need to have a difficult conversation with someone
- Maybe a relationship needs to be ended
- Maybe a hard decision needs to be made
- Maybe we need to finally tell someone about a private struggle and get help
When God’s Spirit speaks, we have to learn to respond to what He is saying.
We can say “no” to God’s invitations (even through fear or indecision) and the Spirit will get quieter and quieter in our lives. The Bible describes it as our hearts becoming more and more numb and darkened. Sometimes darkness in our lives is connected to repeated choices we’ve made to say NO to gentle nudgings of God. As my friend, C’havala says, the Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He won’t force Himself on you. He will respect your no’s, but long-term rejection of God’s invitation will begin to numb your heart to His voice.
Living in KAIROS means we tune into a different realm.
Learning to tune into KAIROS is not easy when our worlds revolve around CHRONOS. Our lives are dictated by timelines, 24 hour days, to-do lists and billing payment cycles.
This year, I’ve made an unusual request of the Lord. I’ve decided I need a spiritual pacemaker. A pacemaker is often implanted when someone has an irregular or unreliable heartbeat– the pacemaker gives a little zap to get the heart in rhythm again.
What if God could implant something inside each of us that made our hearts beat to KAIROS?! Couldn’t we all use a spiritual pacemaker so that…
- we would recognize HIS invitations.
- we would know when we need to ACT.
- we would know when to WAIT.
- we would not be ruled by CHRONOS.
- we would recognize when the Spirit is doing something significant even if it feels inconvenient.
This week I’m sitting with this familiar passage from Ecclesiastes, asking God to reveal to me what some of my KAIROS invitations for this year might be. Join me in asking God for our hearts to beat more fully to God’s time in this new year.
A Time for Everything
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Spend a few minutes sitting with these verses. What words jump out to you? How might there be a KAIROS invitation for you in this passage?