“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.