The rhythm of life, kairos (fullness of time, as related to but different from chronos, or linear time), sacred timing, God’s timing – we all have different ways of thinking and talking about those moments in life when what happens isn’t planned or maybe even thought about or considered, and yet it happens anyway. I trust that timing, mostly in spite of myself. One would probably not have to know me for too long to know I have some control “challenges”, o.k., issues. And one of the things that makes me laugh at myself, or shake my head, or sometimes shake my fist at the heavens, is when that sacred timing is not MY timing. Things that happen for which I’m not prepared and throw off my own sense of equilibrium and steadiness. You know, moments that make us long for all those other times we took for granite. Yes, before I was completely clear about the phrase taking something for granted, in my mind it was taking it for granite, because I thought it meant something that was as solid as a rock. I still say it that way in my head because I often see or think in pictures. So taking God’s presence for us in life for granite, still makes sense to me.
When I think most of us struggle, is when that sacred timing does not make sense to us or in any way fit into our sense of reason or fairness. A pandemic that starts in 2020, a year that we expected to see into a new decade most clearly, became more muddled and unclear about our future than any in our lifetime. As a denomination we were moving toward, or dragging ourselves toward, or fighting our way toward what United Methodism would/will look like in a likely split over human sexuality, and that essentially came to a screeching halt, at least on the national and global scene. From what I understand, it is yet out there to be faced and some have really never hit a pause button on the planning. I wonder if it will seem as intense or if we might at least be more respectful in agreeing to disagree moving forward. Those whom I’ve asked have not been affirming that we will be more gentle. It makes me wonder why. I truly don’t believe God caused this pandemic. We have an exponentially growing global population and when a deadly and highly contagious virus happens, stopping it before it spreads is nearly if not completely impossible, I get that. But given that it has happened, and that I believe God is in the midst of everything, are we not willing to learn new things from new situations – most especially when most of what we had taken for granite has been shaken and blasted and isn’t likely to land in the same place in the same way ever again? When we will likely have lost 500,000 or more lives in this nation alone, and probably over 2,500,000 globally, does it really not change our perspective on all of the other issues that are not literally death-dealing in the same way? I know my perspective on life has changed from this experience. And I know the families who have experienced loss during this time have had their perspectives forever changed as well. I have to believe that’s true for everyone, even if only distantly affected by the risk of death so many others have dealt with directly.
I want us to be different. I want us to partner and connect in our desire to value each other more in our shared desire for a better life for all. I want us to reach toward what I believe are God’s expectations and invitations in unplanned segments of life where everything we have taken for granite is no longer on solid footing and we have the rich and rare opportunity to re-do, re-look, re-think, re-pent, and dare I say, re-boot!!!
In time away last week (more kairos than chronos!) I read two books – one so intense I’m still processing it, the other a more practical writing of observation and possible instruction on where the broader church is in relation to half century of decline with a pandemic as the icing on that proverbial cake. The admonition was essentially given those realities, there is no loss in trying and failing and trying again. That, in fact, “failing forward” is a way of faithfully moving into God’s vision when we are clear we can’t see it clearly any other way. In some ways the author is simply naming the obvious. We may have previously thought we were in control and had solutions and resolutions at the ready, but when we take a closer look, most of what we look back on as a given, maybe a taken for granite, at some point was tried first without a guarantee of success, and what worked we kept, and what didn’t we tweaked or left behind. That’s true in our personal and civic lives as well. In and coming through on the downhill side I hope, of a pandemic, it’s all simply been compacted and magnified. The question is if the steepness of this learning curve is something we can embrace and get stronger moving forward, or if we simply deny it held any possibilities of learning new things and seek to go back to a place we may have nostalgized as more perfect than it really ever was. Understand I’m not talking about the grieving process for families who have lost loved ones. I’m talking about learning from the forced creativity, if you will, of how to do life in a way that was totally unexpected, ever-changing, and in its own way, all-encompassing. What are the strengths as well as the weaknesses that living through this has revealed, for you, for me, for our faith community and faith communities across the board?
Maybe true for you as well, I have more questions than answers right now. More wonderings and wanderings than guaranteed understanding that a+b will always = c. If we take the author’s main point, we do well to make ourselves comfortable in the wonderings and wanderings place because that’s likely where we will be for the foreseeable future. God works for us in all the times, no less now than ever, no less to be taken for granite than other times we were between a rock and a hard place – sorry, maybe taking that metaphor a few steps too far. I’m seeking to remain open to God bringing new understandings, greater courage to try what we never before would have dreamed, and willingness to fail forward toward what God envisions through grace!
Perhaps now is about kairos time – opening ourselves to the possibility of moving at the prompting and pace of the Spirit, the visions of what could be, and the faith that life is and is more than a timeline of events that occur, almost never, in a straight line.