“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.
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.
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.
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,
On to Volume 5.
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.
“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
I’m just going to admit that I have a problem, here. I realize the irony of this in that I’m posting it on the internet itself, but WordPress isn’t really the culprit as much as Tumblr or Facebook or any of the other mindless sites where you scroll and scroll and scroll until you realize that several hours of your time have suddenly disappeared.
But when my first thought is of a technological escapism and I beeline right to my computer, that’s bad. That borders dangerously close to an obsession and smacks of the beginnings of an addict. The more time I spend on these things, the less creative and thoughtful I become. And that’s certainly an issue.
I realized yesterday that the Internet, when not used for checking important emails, researching information, looking up assignments, or thinking about things (mostly, WordPress falls here), is much like the soma of Brave New World, or like any other drug.
Soma makes you vacuously happy.
Soma makes you think of nothing.
Soma takes hours of your time and leaves you with nothing in return but lethargy and a deadened mind.
Soma prevents real thought.
Soma prevents you from becoming the sort of person who changes the world.
The Internet is soma.
So I can’t follow TV shows obsessivly or continue polluting my spirit with hours of the Internet that begin to weigh me down. Because you can’t see life through a TV screen. You can’t change the world or understand the eternal while constantly shackled to Tumblr or Facebook. I shouldn’t waste what little life I have on nothing that really matters. It’s draining me. It’s taking my soul, little by little. And I hadn’t done anything to stop it, because I’ve been too busy taking the freaking soma.
The Internet is the drug that steals your time, your individuality, your mind, and the things that matter. I have to stop being a Delta and live. And I’m going to need the help of my sin-and-death destroying Savior to do that. I can’t do it on my own – I desperately need Him for everything in my life. But I’m up for less Internet.
Tell me your thoughts!
Read this: Any book. Any classic that touches your soul. And think. And have an adventure. Because I need to do all of the above.