The Tyranny of Time
by Johnny Markin
As we sat with friends counting down the last few seconds until the New Year, it struck me that the celebrations taking place throughout the world seemed a little hollow. Now, I’m not trying to throw water on peoples’ desire to gather and celebrate occasions together – quite the opposite. However, there is a bittersweet tone to New Year’s celebrations.
New Years celebrations effectively are a means of simply changing the date on our calendar and, so to speak, start over again. For many, this may seem hopeful, given difficult circumstances that have passed. For them, the hope of better days is their reason to celebrate. I think that’s natural.
Others have experienced ‘good’ days, and hope that things continue. It speaks of the hopefulness of human nature, I suppose.
And so there is singing, revelry, lots of shouting, and popular presenters on television to help us mark the passage of one calendar year to the next.
Yet, each of us is aware, just below the surface, that the ticking of time is an unstoppable monster. We can employ all kinds of phyiscal reconstruction and vitamin therapies to slow the onslaught of its effects, but the ‘tyranny of time’ is with us at the most base level deep within us. And so our laughter and song is but a memory the next morning, as the reality of life stares back at us in the mirror in the form of our own mortality.
Yet at the heart of Christian hope is a fundamentally different way of thinking. Instead of thinking of time as ‘chronos’ (the ticking away of existential moments), the Christian calendar tells us to focus on He who is immortal, and has defeated Time’s constant ally – Death.
Christians celebrate kairos time, by focusing on the events surrounding Jesus’ life (the incarnation, death, resurrection, acscension, and promised return) in a weekly, yearly, and even daily cycle. It is a source of hope that doesn’t just wish for better things, it is the celebration rooted in the historic resurrection of Christ. When death itself can be overturned, all of the other promises of Jesus can also follow, and the promise of a restored creation under the rule of the King of kings upon his second coming gives an assurance that banishes the worry of wrinkles, aching joints, receding hairlines, and the rest. If my days in this life are numbered by a sovereign God (Ps. 139:16), then I can live them out in the confidence that He has my eternity prepared (John 14:2), and the clock itself can be placed under the lordship of our Saviour, as a new ally to constantly point forward to a certainty that banishes fear itself.
Chronos is a tyrant – time as a man-made concept, breaking down the passing of lunar cycles in convenient measurements as we stave off our inevitable mortality.
Kairos is a God-given source of liberty that takes our eyes off of our fading days onto a better time that awaits each person who trusts in their creator/redeemer Christ for their eternity. We can lean into Kairos and know the joy that our promised immortality brings.
So as I watch the countdown and await the dropping ball in Times Square, I find myself emotionally more level. No great ‘high’, but no sense of hidden sorrow.
Instead, just a confident inward assurance that my days are all – every one of them – in God’s hands.
“Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.”
– Psalm 139:16-19 (NIV)
Johnny Markin is Pastor of Worship at Northview Community Church, Abbotsford