No kind of rainy day blues that a dose of Bob Marley and a pair of rain boots won’t cure. Splashing to work this morning, singing inside the blissful ignorance of my headphones… we should really love each other, in peace and harmony, stead of always fussing and fighting… I got to thinking about time. How much longer to springtime, what is it about this season, what is it about time?
Time to move faster, time to rest, time to pray. What time is it? 6:04 in the morning. No it’s not time to get up, yet. No, it’s time to go back to sleep. How much time to read this last chapter, how much time before she’s gone, how much time before it’s due. Do we have enough time together? Do I have enough time to be kind?
Depends on what kind of time.
Kairos is God’s time: time out of time, eternal earthly moments we’ve all known. Time spent rocking your baby to sleep, time in the enormous cool of the ocean with only the tanline on your wrist to remind you of time. Kairos is that time you stayed up half the night talking with your beloved, or reading that novel, or finishing a good project. Time when entire lives seemed to pass while you knelt in the hushed cool of an old cathedral, off the bewildering busy streets of a foreign country in which you were lost and scared, and when you got up, changed, only an hour had gone by.
Chronos is Time’s time: the diligence of clock hands and task lists, the dictation of due dates. Chronos says, no, no, there’s no time to write this down, you’ve got to get started on that project you promised you’d do. Chronos says we met six years ago, though when I see our brown shoes side by side near the doorway, it seems just as likely we are old and rich with years, that we’ve known each other since before we knew how to. Time weighed on the scales of profit and loss, time parceled out on paper, time watched and wished for. Calendar dates so worn with wishing they burn bright as stone through river light.
This is the post I shouldn’t write because I should be writing other things– the things that pay or that I’ve promised. But part of me thrives on kairos time, kairos writing. Writing for nothing and no one (everything and anyone.) I need somewhere to empty my pockets of words, beach pebbles, receipts.
Last week I read in the opening of a book of Celtic prayers that “what’s deepest in us is the image of God” and that the doctrine of original sin, so central in the Mediterranean tradition, has given rise to this “tendency to define ourselves in terms of the ugliness of our failings instead of the beauty of our origins.”
What’s deepest in us is the image of God. If I could sustain that in my mind (hold my breath, try not to realize the realizing) I imagine it would be like Dorothy stepping out of black-and-white into indescribable color. Sometimes I think I live in the black-and-white world because I don’t believe another world is possible. Or I don’t believe it hard enough.
I’m thinking this through, trying to reconcile it with my mistakes and failures, my humanness, and thinking of Lent and what that means, when I get this luminous bit of prose in my email inbox (of all places!) telling me that not only do I contain the image of God, I am also “at [my] best, inarguably perfect. Like a camellia…” This writer of luminosity tells me that though my deepest self is perfect, as a human being I am “a many-branched thing.” The self I think I am is “a splintered one,” made up of all kinds of ideas about who and what I am. But I should go and grow forward with confidence and respect, because in truth, I am nothing short of a miracle.
It’s getting harder to hold these things in one hand (image-of-Godness, camellia-ness) and in the other the comfortable bantering of my erstwhile thoughts (you should be fired, you’re mean and small, can’t you ever keep your mouth shut, call yourself a Christian…) In still another hand, Kali-like, I’m turning the globed surface of Lent over in the light, trying to see what it’s for.
Kali, incidentally, is the Hindu goddess of time & change. Here she’s walking on Shiva, the lord of death. (And over here we have one talented photographer’s interpretation of Kali as the goddess of writing.)
Lent is about sacrifice, penance, discipline, giving up, letting go. Because I have often been all too ready to take something away or take up a discipline out of pride or loathing, I’ve been sitting on the sidelines the past few years. How do I know if a Lenten practice is the right practice for me? It helps to think of Lent as an opportunity to practice letting go of what is keeping God out. And I don’t think it’s chocolate, wine, or coffee. I think it’s those erstwhile thoughts that have been doing their best to fill up the space God wants. It’s the habit of criticism that works to deny the image of God, the camellia, which is deepest in me and deepest in all of us.
That’s a little more of what I meant to say yesterday, when I didn’t have the time. On my way out the door today, going home, I read the prayer by the coat rack for the first time:
Life is short and we have not too much time
for gladdening the hearts of those
who are traveling the dark way with us.
Oh, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind.
Tomorrow there will be a little more to the story.