On a recent BA flight I read an article by Ben Hammersley about his new Tikker watch (see www.mytikker.com ) and now I want one for my birthday. The Tikker is no ordinary watch. It doesn’t just tell you the time – it tells you how long you have left to live. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ben writes,
“Do you have any idea how long you have left, well, actually? In total? To live? I do. It’s counting down on my wrist as I type this. I have, according to my watch, 44 years, ten months, five days, six hours, ten minutes to go. Even less by the time you read this, of course, and the information is coming to me every time I glance at my wrist. I’m wearing a Tikker watch, calibrated against my date of birth, nationality and other pertinent things, and displaying a forever depleting time left to my, actuarially predicted, statistically average, time of death. The brainchild of Tikker founder Fredrik Colting — a Swedish former gravedigger…”
Fredrik obviously had plenty of time on his hands. One of the things I love to do on a flight is watch the map of the world going by and the timer ticking down to the arrival time. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have one for our life journey too? Fredrik hits the nail in the coffin,
“All we have to do is learn how to cherish the time and the life that we have been given,” they say, “to honour it, suck the marrow from it, seize the day and follow our hearts. And the best way to do this is to realise that seconds, days and years are passing never to come again. And to make the right choices.”
“So here it is, dear reader. With your few hours left to run on this flight, and a few decades left to run on this earth, we all face the same questions. Is this the best use of my time? Is this what I should be doing? And, while those questions are impossibly hard, they’re worth asking anyway, every time I look at my wrist.”
Good questions to ask. Except we all have a ‘ticker’ and although one day it will for sure stop beating, the Bible promises, it can be recalibrated to last forever. The question is – how do we best make use of the diminishing amount we have before that day comes? The Book of Ecclesiastes, written around 900BC, presents some profound and timeless wisdom:
“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace…
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart… I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-14)
Why does time seem to speed up the older we get? There are apparently several scientific explanations for this perplexing phenomena.
The most common explanation is that time is perceived as a proportion of time we have lived. To a five-year-old, a year is a long time because it is 20% of their entire existence. To a 62 year-year-old like me, one year is less than 2% of your life. Proportional time.
Another theory is that as we get older, life gets busier and we have more things to do. We never seem to have enough time to get everything done so life seems to speed by. If you keep ‘to do’ lists you know what this feels like. Confession time – I currently have 19 ‘to do’ lists on my phone and the one in my Filofax makes 20. Conveniently they synch with my computer and tablet, usually. If not I end up with 38… Proportional time. Complex time.
It’s all about forgetfulness per this theory. Memory weakens as the years pass and because we can’t remember what we did yesterday, let alone last week or last month, time seems to fly. Perhaps this is me, because the logic of this one escapes me.
This postulates that as we age, our time is taken up with predictable tasks and pleasures that provide little intellectual stimulation. If, instead, we spent our time in new pursuits, time would apparently slow down. This blends nicely with a fifth theory,
Time is perceived at different rates of speed depending on whether your mind is primarily thinking about the past, the present, or future. Children generally are future tense types. They can’t wait to be big enough to ride a bicycle or stay up late or be allowed to go to the cinema alone. They are always waiting for school holidays, birthdays and Christmas. Combined with the constantly moving target of age-related privileges guarantees that each wait feels like eternity. Teenagers live mainly in the future tense too, looking forward anxiously to leaving school, becoming 18 then becoming 21, buying a car, getting a job, having a real salary instead of pocket money, independence, freedom. For young adults there is the prospect of finding a partner, promotion, affording a newer car or bigger house. Even raising children is on future time – longing for them to grow out of nappies or to sleep through the night, or stop teething, then its vying for the best schools and saving for the right college.
Time moves more slowly during the first half of life because we are anticipating the next thing we want rather than enjoying what is here and now. Once we hit the half way mark, which is often imperceptible because by now you are enjoying life, the incline gently, subtly changes from up to down, and we don’t notice until we begin to pick up speed. Older folks like me, tend to live in the past tense, recalling triumphs and tragedies of our younger years. We sometimes complain about new-fangled ways of doing things. We lament the loss of the “good old days.” Living in the past tense may speed up the perception of time because the anticipation of the new is gone.
Five different concepts of time and why it seems to go slow or fast. They each have to do with chronology or sequential time—the ticking of the clock.
In the Bible this is called chronos time. The Psalmist prays “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). But there is another kind of time mentioned in the Bible. Kairos time. If chronos describes our time, kairos describes God’s time.
The word kairos is Greek for “opportunity” or “the right time”, the “fullness of time” or the “supreme moment”. In the Bible kairosrefers to God’s timing. In his first sermon, Jesus said, “The time has come… The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). This was a kairos moment for those who heard Jesus. Sometimes chronos time and kairos time intersect like two different time zones. At the wedding in Cana, Jesus mother asks for his help when they had run out of wine before the end of the wedding. Jesus replies, “Woman, why do you involve me, my time has not yet come” (John 2:4). On another occasion his brothers suggest he go to Jerusalem to show himself, even though they did not believe in him.
“My time (kairos) is not yet here; for you any time (chronos) will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” (John 7:6-8)
In Paul’s letter to Titus, chronos and kairos intersect.
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time [chronon], and which now at his appointed season [kairos] he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour” (Titus 1:1-3)
Kairos time has with it a sense of a divine turning point—”now is the time, now is the hour”—is central to kairos time. Remember Paul’s appeal to the people of Athens:
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
That “but now” is kairos time. Kairos time conveys a sense of expectation, a time for a decision. Quoting the Psalmist the writer to Hebrews says: “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7-8).
How can we make this afternoon a kairos moment and not just another chronos moment? How can we live in both worlds, both time zones, but give preference to Kairos over chronos? On a daily basis I review my schedule prayerfully. I use four quadrants prayerfully to determine the Kairos time for me in my daily routine – urgent and important, important and not urgent, urgent but not important, and not important and not urgent. I hit the urgent and important first and get them out of the way so that I can concentrate on the important while it is not yet urgent. Anything that is urgent but not important I try and delegate and anything not urgent and not important I either ignore or leave for holidays and long journeys.
I have found the Willow Creek course, An Ordinary Day with Jesus by John Ortberg a most helpful resource in organising and prioritising my time. I want us to close with a spiritual reflection and exercise.
An Ordinary Day with Jesus
Imagine what it would be like to spend an ordinary day with Jesus. To have a one-to-one with Jesus for the whole day. Imagine. What would it be like? Special? Memorable? Life changing? If it were possible to spend an ordinary day with Jesus, what would it feel like? One of the last things Jesus promised his friends was this “I will be with you always.” “I – will – be – with – you – always. Always.
What would happen if you were to spend the whole of tomorrow doing everything the way Jesus would?
In Jesus name? In Jesus presence? In order to live every moment of an ordinary day with Jesus, we would have to begin the day with him. Right? When does the day begin?
- At midnight
- When the sun rises
- When the children wake up
- When breakfast is ready
- At dusk
The correct answer is: At dusk. Genesis 1:5, “There was evening, and there was morning – the first day.” Throughout the bible’s description of creation, each day begins with night. That is why the Jewish people begin to celebrate the Sabbath when? At sundown. So how can we spend an ordinary day with Jesus? Here are five simple steps. If the day begins at night, the first thing we need to do in order to spend an ordinary day with Jesus is to:
1. Get enough sleep
Most of us go to bed exhausted. Infact some of us wake up that way too. Know someone like that? It is hard to be like Jesus when you are sleep deprived. If you doubt this, try hanging out with someone who is sleep deprived. Odd as it may sound, the most helpful thing many of us could do to spend a day with Jesus would be to go to bed earlier. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2). So get to bed early. Before you do,
2. Resolve any conflicts before bed
What we think about as we drift off to sleep often shapes how we feel in the morning. The bible says “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Eph 4:26-27). When you get home tonight resolve any outstanding family issues. Be at peace with your partner or family before your head hits the pillow and you will sleep peacefully, wake refreshed and celebrate tomorrow as God intended.
3. Invite Jesus to be with you
What are you normally like first thing in the morning? Someone once said there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who love to wake up in the morning, and those who hate people who love to wake up in the morning. And marriages usually have one of each.
Jesus honours our freedom, so he usually doesn’t impose himself on people who aren’t open to him. He goes where he is invited, so invite him into your day when you wake up tomorrow. Your invitation could be as simple as “Lord, before I get up I want to invite you to join me in everything I do today. Thank you for your willingness to live in and through me.” One of the first passages I memorised as a young Christian was Palm 143:8-9.
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (Psalm 143:8-9)
Knowing Jesus is with you tomorrow might cause you to do some things differently. It might influence what you say to others. It might influence what TV programmes you watch. But would that be a bad thing?
4. Love as Jesus loved
Three simple ways we can love like Jesus.
Love by listening more.
Jesus was the greatest teacher and had the busiest schedule but he listened. He often asked questions and waited for people’s answers. Sometime he taught by simply asking questions. You can become more loving by listening more. One of the simplest ways of doing so is by asking questions. You can also use the phrase “tell me more”. When someone is talking, resist the urge to comment. Instead, when they have finished, look at them and say sincerely, “tell me more” Of course you must mean it and pay attention. You can’t love in a hurry and you can’t listen in a hurry either. If you use this phrase regularly, over time you will become more loving and patient. Love by listening more.
Love with sensitive touch
Jesus reached out and touched the untouchables in this world. He was comfortable being with men, women and children and they felt safe around him. A recent university study has shown that we need eight to ten meaningful touches a day for our emotional health. A warm handshake, a touch on the arm or the shoulder or a hug (if reciprocated) can be a huge blessing. We need to use appropriate touch to connect with people as Jesus did.
For our own sakes as well as theirs. You will find it will help you become more loving, and people will experience you as a more loving person. Love with sensitive touch.
Love with words of love
Jesus often spoke words of love to the people he met. Sometimes they were words of grace, other times they were words of truth. Both came from a heart of love. Three ways to become more loving – by listening more, with sensitive touch and with words of love. Finally, as the day draws to an end,
5. Review your day with Jesus
Reviewing your day with Jesus is a similar to the way athletes improve their performance. They spend time reviewing their play on video. By doing so they can learn from their mistakes and be encouraged by their progress. In the same way, take time toward the end of your day, perhaps in solitude, to review the film of your day with Jesus. As you remember those good things that happened give him thanks. When you remember where you may have failed, confess them, receive his forgiveness and take steps to put anything right with others before going to bed. Five steps to an ordinary day with Jesus. Five ways to organise your time. Actually with Jesus no day is an ordinary day is it? Jesus transforms the mundane into the extraordinary. So consciously spend an extraordinary day with Jesus, today and every day – knowing the Lord has indeed:
“made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart… I know that everything God does will endure forever.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
A presentation delivered at the 2017 Epsom Deanery clergy retreat
With grateful thanks to John Ortberg and the ‘Ordinary Day with Jesus’ training resources for the inspiration behind this talk.