(Just) Enough Time (Part 1 of 6)

[Rather than read this piece-by-piece, if you prefer, you can see the entire essay at barneywiget.com.]

“My uncle told a good story with his life, but I think there was such a sadness at his funeral because his story wasn’t finished. If you aren’t telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died. But my uncle died too soon.” Donald Miller

When I was first diagnosed with cancer I worried about dying before my story was finished. I had, and still have, a number of things to achieve, people to reach, chapters to live and to tell. It wasn’t the dying part that bothered me so much as living long enough (and well enough) to complete my story (and complete it well). A number of things have comforted me since then, not the least of which is the assortment of passages strewn throughout the pages of my Bible – a selection of which come from John’s Gospel. These in particular, consoled me; on the one hand, with the confidence that God would give me with enough time to do everything he wanted me to do. His “To Do List” was still achievable even if I did have less time than I had previously thought. On the other hand, there were other verses that injected me with a conviction that he would give me just enough time. I’d have time, but no more than I needed to finish my assignment.

When the professor gives you a due date, if you’re smart you do it before it’s due. The boss gives you a deadline and you know that if you cross that line you’re dead. If they don’t give you a due date or deadline, you ask them for it, because you want to know how to pace yourself and would rather not be surprised when they ask you for it at the last minute when you’re only half finished. If you’re a procrastinator the pace usually looks like – wait till that last minute and then pull an all-nighter. I call it the “heart attack pace.” At least it’s a pace.

The thing with God is that he doesn’t usually give due dates and deadlines, at least not to me. He doesn’t tell us how much time we have to finish our work here. I guess he expects us to live responsibly, sensibly, and obediently. We don’t know when our eternal life performance review is scheduled, so if we’re wise we make every effort to stay in love, stay on track, and stay on task.

Nobody likes the boss or the professor that’s infamous for not giving people enough time to accomplish their assigned tasks. “I want a 30-page paper on the fall of Rome… Let’s say… by the beginning of class tomorrow.” Or, “Work up those sales projections for next year by Thursday.”

“Thursday. Okay. Wait. What?”

He gives us enough time to do what we’re supposed to do.

He has the big picture in his mind when he assigns us tasks to do. He knows what we’re best at, how we’re built (duh?), and what sort of opportunities will come our way – since he’s the one who brings them our way. He knows how much time we have here on his earth and he gives us what we need to achieve his goals for us.

Being no Greek scholar – English is a big enough challenge for me – I don’t usually like to play the original language card, but I think the distinction between two terms in the New Testament for “time” might help me explain my point. When “time” is referred to it’s either “chronos” (pronounced with a hard “C” sound) or “kairos.” The former expresses the duration of time and the latter speaks of its distinction.

OK, let me be clearer. Chronos is what you look at your watch or your calendar for. Obviously, we get our word “chronology” from it. It has to do with the passage of time. When you look in the mirror, it’s chronos that happened to you between now and twenty years (or more) ago. Kairos describes opportune moments, times when something significant happens. When Jesus said, “my time has not yet come,” that’s kairos, best time for him to show his true glory. When we say, “I had a good time,” we’re not talking about a quantity of time (that would be chronos), but it’s quality. Whatever amount of time we spend doing whatever it is, it has a certain value to it – that value is kairos. Paul told us to “make the most of every opportunity (kairos).”

The reason for my little Greek lesson is to make the point that God gives us enough time (chronos) to have all the times (kairos’s) he’s planned in eternity past for us. We can count on him to give us enough time in this life to accomplish enough things for his glory.

“After doing God’s will by serving the people of his time, David died.” Acts 13:36 (GWT) That’s when I want to die, when I’m finished doing God’s will by serving the people of my time.

The day before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last sermon at the Church of God in Christ in Memphis on April 3, 1968, called “I’ve Been To The Mountain Top.” His closing words were:

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

Like Jesus, King knew that his days were numbered. Your sense of limited longevity may not be as sharp to you as it was for them, and I’m absolutely not suggesting that you live in any sort of impending doom about dying. But the fact is, someday the Teacher will say, “Time’s up. Turn in your project, as is.”

“So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.” Ephesians 5:16-17 (The Message)

Will your life be over before your story is finished? Will your “chronos” run out before you’ve had all your kairos’s? Is there something you will do to make sure that doesn’t happen?

Talk to God about it and then ask a trusted confidant to pray with you and hold you accountable to living a fuller life with whatever amount of time you have left.

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