xρόνος + καιρός = time

“Time is not inert,” says Augustine.  “It does not roll through our senses without affecting us.  Its passing has remarkable effects on the mind.”

So when I realized a week and a half ago that it was November, I had a bit of a situation.  How on earth has time passed so quickly?  It honestly feels like I just arrived back at school and set up my dorm room, reunited with friends, and started classes, and now I’m signing up for next semester’s work and realizing that I have only a month of school left.

Time’s been on my mind lately, as evidenced by the frequent, frenzied scrawls of “KAIROS!” in the margins of my class notes.  I know that as a still-teenager I have no right to say this, but I have noticed that time picks up the older that you get and does not stop.  Compared to the lazy, endless days of childhood, those summer stretches when I would play outside, read for hours, and not feel the pinch of passing time, the hours now hurtle forward, and I look up and weeks and months have passed without my assent.  That’s the trouble with clinging to the next weekend, the next break, the next year – it will arrive as quickly as you want it to.

My lovely friend texted me as I was writing this that she had just proven the relativity of time for her physics homework.  In certain calculations involving the speed of light, what should be perceived is very different from what is perceived.  Essentially, someone can have a perception of time that’s twice as slow as normal.  Although the speed of light doesn’t change, time does.  As permanent as it seems and as inconceivable as eternity is, time is a created function.  God made time, and everything created is mutable.  God, the Uncreated, is the sole immutable in our ever-shifting universe – which is why we must place our faith on His unchanging foundation.  Augustine says that God’s “years are one Today”.

Even that’s too much to comprehend for me.  God, the creator of time itself, is not subject to it.  He stands outside of time, because time is a mortal constraint.  In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis puts it beautifully, as usual: “God is not hurried along in the Time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel. He has infinite attention for each of us.”

We are not so removed from the past.  I feel sometimes that we brush up against them.  I’ve realized as I’ve read texts from both sides of time (BC to AD) that no matter how different cultures might seem, people haven’t really changed.  Truth is truth regardless of chronology.

On the same note, the ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos (xρόνος)and kairos (καιρός).  Chronos is the root of our word chronological.   It refers to time as we know it – linear, sequential, normal.  Kairos, however, is the one that’s fascinated me all semester.  Ever since I reread A Wrinkle in Time, it’s been popping up in magically realistic Spanish literature, Greek philosophy, and English texts.  It’s an in-between, liminal sort of time in which something monumental happens, event-based and not chronologically based.  Although it’s sometimes referred to as “God time”, I’m not sure this is quite accurate, because God owns all time and isn’t bound by any of it.  It’s the time that God acts – His divinely ordained workings in light of Eternity.

Timing is everything, and God’s is perfect.  He has the ability to see everything as a whole, from the ancient past to the future that we couldn’t even imagine for ourselves.  We wonder why he does things when he does them, but honestly, the Creator of Time itself knows a thing or two about the way it functions in our lives.

Now, though, I am trapped under the weight of chronology.  Just as Death and Time are subject to God, I am under their jurisdiction.  The worst is when I feel that time is wasted, and I know I’ve done plenty of that.  After episodes on the BBC and endless scrolling through internet webpages, I realize that my free time has vanished.  I used to think that if I weren’t in school I would have time to do other things, but now I’m beginning to realize that I’m wrong.  If I were dying, I always thought, then I wouldn’t waste my time.  But I am dying.

There are moments when I am pulled out of chronos, slipping, fragile, into near-kairos until I fall back down.  A few weeks ago, as I sat outside on a cold bench, praying into the frozen air, I suddenly saw myself from the outside through the eyes of the future.  I saw myself as I will and knew that I will look back on that moment and think how young I was, and how much God still had to show me.

Our time here is limited, so we’d best use it well.  God has created time, and he does not create evil things.  He’s given us our perfectly allotted time so that we can fulfill our purpose on this planet.  Time spent living for Him can never be wasted, and so we need to keep in mind that our lives here could fold and wrinkle in a second.  Let us live in the mindset of eternity, fixing our eyes on God and his kairos as best as we can.  Because past, present, and future, God is.

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journalling

I am in favor of journalling.  As catharsis, as a thought-process, and as a recording of not only events, but the way that God moves through them and your feelings and perceptions in them.

I finished my most recent journal a few weeks ago, and it was an odd feeling.  Accomplished, yes.  I realized that almost all of it detailed my summer and its decisions.  Each successive volume that I complete seems to cover a shorter and shorter span of time.  That’s a good thing, I think, because it means I’m writing more and more about less trivial things.  Looking back on Volume 1, which spanned several years and simply kept a record of events, I’m glad I’m growing.

I thought I’d post the last few pages of this one.

I’m sitting on my bed, per usual.  My desk is cluttered, and I haven’t used it.  I have three Czech Mucha posters above my desk, and it’s no secret that Hamlet is my favorite.  My super classy bookcase. Posters: El Greco, Rene Magritte, Sherlock, Vertigo.

I’ve finally opened the window, and a cool breeze is drifting in.  I can hear it softly moving the trees.  It’s carrying fall, and the seasons will change and change again until I am grown and dead and gone, and then they will continue to change.

I’ve been trying to name the breeze in the leaves.  It’s not quite an ocean. The best I can do is to call it breathing, living.

I’m reminded of the moment when Aslan approaches the statues in the White Witch’s castle, breathes softly on them, and brings them back to life.  Yes.  It’s carrying magic.

Deeper magic.

And God’s been breathing softly on my heart, and I know He’ll continue to do so as I turn and grumble and strive and harden.

It’s apt that this journal, filled with so much anguish and confusion and so many places, faces, worries, and miracles should end on such a note as this.  It isn’t what I expected. I was going to write about my doubts in writing, my feelings of inferiority in fiction, and my fear.

No.  Instead, I speak of peace, of changes, and of growth.  I speak of the God who breathes life into my own heart as surely as He moves the trees with an unseen power.

I worry, and I strive.

But there is One who takes my worries and shoulders my strivings, bearing them to death and beyond.  There is One who forgives and gives me life and stills my frantic soul.

So.

I will write.  I will write and write and look forward and backward.  I will live and not just exist, I will follow my God wherever He leads and trust in Him.

I will not write for others, afraid of their judgement.

I will write for myself a small bit, and for my readers, if they exist, and I will write for my God.

May the God of peace and life-giving breezes melt your frozen soul.  May the God who has the power to move mountains and dig rivers, who deserves all awe and glory yet loves us still, and who has the power to move our broken hearts in an immensely personal way, be with you always.  In the name of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ,

Amen.

On to Volume 5.

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death

About a month ago, my father gave me a copy of my own will to read over before we left for my great-aunt’s funeral.  Suffice it to say, I did a lot of thinking about death that weekend.

It was a lovely service, but then came the moment that I always dreaded.  I hate looking into the casket and seeing the waxy, lifeless body of the person I had once known.  Their features are fixed in place, caked with a garish sort of makeup, and you can tell that there is no spark there.  “It doesn’t look like her,” I whispered to my father.  “That’s because it isn’t,” he returned.

That’s why I hate looking in there.  I understand why it happens, as a final farewell and to give closure to the grieved.  But you can tell when you look that something has left.  Everything that made up their personality, their tiny quirks, opinions, and Great Loves has gone.  Their soul has left that flimsy, mortal shell and entered into eternity.

A storm was brewing on our way to the funeral, ominous in the distance.  It split the sky into dark and light geometrics on our right, fading from black to white on the left.  We were in Oklahoma, and it looked very honestly as though some of the clouds would touch down.

My family was worried.  My brother hates tornadoes.  I turned to him and asked him what the worst thing that could happen was.  “Uh, we all die a horrible death?” he replied.  I met his eyes.  “Is that all?”

Because for the believer, death does not hold the same dreadful power that it once did.  It’s a crossing over from one dimension to the next – the vehicle that takes us (in a Narnian vocabulary) to Aslan’s Country.  “Death opens a door,” says C.S. Lewis, “out of a little, dark room (that’s all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet.”

We no longer fear death, because all it can threaten is a better life than the one we have known here.  Eternity with God lies on the other side, and it is magnificent.  As someone once pointed out to me, life on earth is as close to hell as the Christian will ever be.  And if life here is so beautiful even despite the decay and depravity of this world, can you imagine what heaven will be like?  This world is but a dim reflection of the next, and eternity is being in God’s presence forever.

Just as we need not fear the consequence of death, we can also have faith in its timing.  And that’s scary, too, because there’s so much we want to do here, so many people we’re connected to, and so much life we want to live.  But I have realized this: if God takes me, then He will be even more glorified in my death.  If I die tomorrow, it simply means that my time here is finished and that my work here is done.  As long as there is still breath in my lungs and blood running in my veins, I have a mission.  The only reason I am still alive right now is because God has not finished with me here.

This summer I was driving my friend back to her house, moaning as we hit our third red light in a row.  She answered, “Maybe God just wants us to spend more time together.”  I laughed.  “No, seriously,” she said.

I think I forget how much of my life God has planned out.  He is a God of big pictures, but He is also a God of precise details.  There are so many reasons why we could have hit those lights.  What if we would have gotten in an accident if I’d gone through – and died?

I wondered then with shock – how many times has God saved my life without me even knowing?  How many details, breaths, or decisions could have resulted in my death had they been even slightly different?

My mortality stares me in the face at times like these – at funerals, during car rides, at night when I stare up at the shelves above my bed.  But I can stare back, unafraid and unangered.  I do not despair at death because I know that there is life beyond its threshold.  And it hurts, and the grief is almost too much to handle, and we don’t understand why God has Death take our loved ones when He does.  All I can say is that He knows better than we do.

One of the reasons that I love The Book Thief so much is that its narrator, Death, is not depicted as evil, but as tired, sad, and haunted by humans.  Death is only the messenger, and he is an old friend.  He tips his hat in my direction and I nod in his, knowing that he does his job without spite.  He takes each soul and carries it gently at its perfectly ordained time. I watch him pass, and he acknowledges me, and I know that when the day arrives when he comes for me, my work here will be finished, and I will have nothing to fear from him.

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Read this: 

“Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.”

“Crossing the Bar”, Alfred Lord Tennyson

what God’s been telling me this summer

I’m back at school.  Classes don’t start until tomorrow, though, so I’ve still got a few hours of freedom before I have to start worrying about everything.  I’ve still got a lot to tell you about things learned on vacation and during the summer, but I thought it apt to focus on God’s hand in my life this summer.  It’s been crazy.

Existential crises abounded.  The whole idea of being pre-med loomed, I could see the deadline, and the weight of my choices crippled me.  Granted, I gave them a bit too much weight.  But still.  I struggled over this for a long time.  There was one day of our trip, when we were in Denmark, when I just remember sitting on a windowsill and knowing that I was shaking inside.  The more I thought about it, the bigger my choice seemed.  I was scared of making a wrong decision, being considered stupid, not accomplishing anything.

But God spoke to me in the quiet spaces of hotel rooms and restaurants, and through the kindness of my little brother one night as I blubbered out my confusion, desire for greatness, and desire for God.

I prayed that God would replace my desires with His, give me peace, and help me to rely only on Him and not on the approval of others.  I prayed that He and He alone would become my hallowed thing.

And He spoke to me quietly and began to do these things.  I realized this: it doesn’t actually matter what I do, because I can serve God in whatever I do.  This “clarity” that I kept praying for may never come in the way that I wanted, and that was okay.  My focus was skewed.  I had been focusing on what I could do, and these things that I had wanted when I should have been turning my focus to the One who is with me always.  Everything in my life has to flow from that one relationship.

And it was at this point that God began to give me clarity as to what He wanted me to do.  That’s how it seemed at the time, but looking back, I suspect that I only began to listen at this point.

I worked as an intern for a nonprofit, LINC NT, when I got home, and the very first thing that they said they needed was someone to write stories for them.  That may not sound as shocking to you, but I’d been applying for jobs elsewhere and getting nowhere.  It was as if God had said, I want you here, and I want you writing. 

I wish I could remember all of the people, articles, and books that came my way at this point, but they were so numerous that I felt a little bit inundated.  I’d click on an article in a magazine, and it’d be about this very issue.  People came up to me independent of each other and mentioned my writing.  And then, a few weeks ago, I met with my pastor to talk.

We talked for almost two hours that morning, about art, literature, England, and my future.  And after our conversation, I stopped for tea and wrote, because I needed to process.  I trembled.  And here it is.

I knew I had to drop Chemistry.  I don’t really want to be a doctor.  Not really.  Because although I love the idea of it, I don’t think I’d be as happy in the day-to-day aspect.  It’d be stressful, and I’d have to separate myself from feelings about patients,people would die, and I wouldn’t be able to write.  I wouldn’t have the time.  But you make time for what you love!  I wouldn’t though.

And the most terrifying decision and admission came out then.  Everyone else has witnessed my passion for quite some time, and I think I just had to admit it to myself.  I love stories, and I am a creature driven more by story than anything else.  I want to be surrounded by them, inspired by them, and create them.

I want to write.

Why not do the thing I love most?  I have been blessed with a Great Love, and I know that not everyone has one.  And I want to be a writer, however impractical that may be.

I don’t know exactly how, and I don’t know at all how my life will pan out.  But who really does?  And this is a crazy thing.  As I told a dear, encouraging friend that night, I never thought I’d be that person who doesn’t have a distinct plan, who just goes where she thinks God is leading her.  Who just trusts that God will lead her and jumps.

And I’m scared.  I’m terrified – I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared of anything in my life.  This is a big step for me, and writing doesn’t exactly ensure a stable profession.  But I think it’s a step I have to take.  And I know that whatever I do, God’s going to provide me with what I need.  I don’t know that He’ll give me what I want.  And that’s a very good thing, because He knows so much better than I do.

I dropped Chemistry.  Looking back, I couldn’t even remember what had possessed me to sign up for it in the first place.  This summer, something just shifted.  And ever since that decision, God’s been giving me confirmation, guidance, and unbelievable peace.  I’ve read some really fantastic books – I just finished Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis, and Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle.  The latter was intensely appropriate, recommended to me by another dear friend.  It’s all about being a Christian and a writer, and every page held something that I’d been thinking about or needed to consider.

Exactly two weeks after that decision, I got those articles published, which was lovely and confirming.

But even if I hadn’t… I’ve felt more peace since accepting this.  And since I’ve decided, I’ve been writing more every day.  And the more I write, the more I realize just how much I love it.  I love making sentences, the way a pen feels between my fingers, the way my handwriting spindles out, big words, analyzing and digging, creating characters, when people like my work, speaking True things.  I love writing. And the more I realize that, and the more I focus on God, the more that desire for greatness begins to fade.  I might never make it.  But I’m starting to care less, because I’m happy writing.

So, I don’t know where exactly I’m going from here.  It won’t be easy, and it won’t always make sense.  But I will continue to look to the Immutable and trust that He knows where I’m going.

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Read this: “Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about “man’s search for God.” To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat…. whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, [was] the steady, unrelenting approach of Him  whom I so earnestly desired not to meet… I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed… The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy.  The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”  C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

“Plato spoke of the necessity for divine madness in the poet. It is a frightening thing to open oneself to this strange and dark side of the divine; it means letting go our sane self control, that control which gives us the illusion of safety. But safety is only an illusion, and letting it go is part of listening to the silence, and to the spirit.” Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

…seriously, these books are gold.

letters from famous authors

A Collection of Brilliant and Inspiring Letters From Famous Authors to Their Young Fans

What really matters is:–

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

~C.S. Lewis

“I must write a special letter and thank you for the dream in the bottle. You are the first person in the world who has sent me one of these and it intrigued me very much. I also liked the dream. Tonight I shall go down to the village and blow it through the bedroom window of some sleeping child and see if it works.”

~Roald Dahl

bear with me!

Here’s the deal.

We’ve been travelling, and then some family stuff came up, so I haven’t posted in a very long time.

Forgive me.

But I have a lot to talk about, if I can just remember it!  So, bear with me! I’ve just started reading Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis, so in the meantime, here’s a quote:

“I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles.  Also, of endless books.”

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a confession

Hear this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpI5tJoncS0  <<Pertinent and on repeat.

Okay.

Lately…

I’ve been feeling a certain unrest in my soul.  By lately, I don’t mean the-past-week lately, although it’s certainly been resurfacing within recent weeks.  I want to do something important- something that matters.  I was talking to my friend about this, and she pointed out that that unrest wasn’t necessarily a bad thing- that in those moments, we don’t become complacent, but instead notice the things that we need to change and fix.  And I completely agree.

But I’ve been entirely too hard on myself.  I beat myself up all the time for not doing anything important, for not doing as well in school as I think I should do, for being less than others are.  I want to be great, and that sounds terrible as I type this, but this is a confession of sorts.  As I read these fantastic authors’ work, Dostoevsky, Keats, Joyce, Dickens, Shakespeare, Eliot, Donne, Lewis… I can’t help but want to join them in some way.

Is it bad that I yearn for greatness, to make a difference, to be known or remembered?  Not necessarily.  But my motives bear an explanation.  What has been driving me to such distress?  Do I crave this because God has placed it in me and because I want to say something important, change people’s hearts, and speak his truth as an instrument of his will?  Or do I simply want to make a name for myself, draw attention to my own talents and abilities, and be remembered by humanity for my skills and intelligence rather than the Holy Spirit inside of me?

I want to know I’m doing something important.  I want to have a purpose in this life.  And yes, I know my purpose is to praise God in whatever I’m doing, but it’s frustrating not knowing what he’s created and formed me for.

Comparing myself to others to gauge my own worth or progress isn’t helpful, either.  In fact, it’s terribly detrimental.  Whenever I try to measure myself off of others, which is something I struggle with every day, I can never come close.  I end up feeling stupid, out of place, and worthless, and that’s certainly not a good place to be.  I read the work of these beautiful, fantastic, amazingly brilliant authors and think to myself almost every day, I will never measure up.  I could never create such a thing of beauty as they have already, so why try? 

I focus in too closely on myself and let this selfishness grow until these worries consume me, pull me down, and pull me away from the problems of other people.  I could be showing them the love of God, but instead, I tear myself down from the inside out with worries about the future, about my calling, and about what I do with myself right now.

And… here’s the thing.  I’m not writing the next great American novel right now.  I haven’t produced anything radically world-altering or brilliant.  I don’t do something every day that would be considered successful in the eyes of the world… and that’s okay.

Trusting that God will guide me is hard, because I’m fallible, and I’m human, and I doubt and forget what he’s done for me every single day, getting mired down in stupid things.  But I’m trying.  Scratch that.  I don’t have to try, because nothing that I do could get me any closer to God.  He’s already done and given it all for me.  In my weakness, I rely on His strength.  And I’m not saying that I won’t relapse, or that everything will be fixed tomorrow.  I will, and it won’t.  These are things I struggle with all of the time, doubting and idolizing my intelligence or personal glory above God and His power and plans.

But He is changing me, and will show me what He has planned for me in His timing.  That’s a beautiful thing.  And although it’s dreadfully hard to rest in this uncertainty, He makes it a possibility.

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Read this: “Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam; and why of that loam whereto he was converted might they not stop a beer barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.” Hamlet, V.i

“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will” V.ii

We’ve been in Hamlet for my Shakespeare class (it’s GREAT, I have a minor crush on him… problematic?), and he’s got a lot to say about fleeting greatness and God as the orchestrator of fate.  Well, he gets there.  Eventually.