By Bill Mowry, Crosswalk.com
It’s time to ask some questions. However, not everyone is comfortable asking or answering questions. Look at how politicians or teachers squirm when asked a question they’re unprepared to answer. Question asking is important. The dilemma is which questions should we ask. Two questions are on people’s minds today. First the big one: “Why is God allowing this pandemic?” The second is more practical: “When will it be safe to start up schools, go to a restaurant, or attend a sporting event?” The latter question is for politicians and scientists. The former question nags at everyone’s soul in tough times. It’s another way of asking the age-old question, “Why does God allow evil?” But, I’m not asking these questions nor will I attempt to answer them. The question I’m asking is, “What time is it?”
The New Testament uses two different words to express the Hebrew concept of time.
Chronos time is chronological time. It refers to a quantity of time or the amount of time passed (Matthew 25:19). Chronos time is the time we measure with our clocks and watches.
Kairos time is about the “right moment,” the moment of opportunity, the chance of a lifetime. Kairos time speaks of those opportune times that become turning points for us. Kairos time opens the door for God to act creatively and reveal a deeper truth than what we see on the surface. Teachers call this the “teachable moment” in a student’s life.
Author Henri Nouwen documents how “all the great events of the gospels occur in the fullness (kairos) of time” (Luke 1:57; Mark 1:15; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10). When we see time in light of our faith in the God of history, “we see that the events of this year are not just a series of happy or unhappy events but part of the shaping hands of God.”
Kairos time invites me to slow down and savor the moment; learning from God in life’s routines. Chronos time is impatient living; it’s living by the clock. Kairos time calls us to live in the moment . . . and ask some questions. My recent conversation with Stan was a kairos moment for him: “I’ve been thinking about this pandemic. This really is a historic event. I may never go through something like this again. I don’t want to miss God’s will for me in this crisis.” The pandemic caused Stan to ask some important life questions. Let me throw in a bit of poetry to accent this realization.
Earth's crammed with Heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes;
The rest of us sit around and pluck blackberries.
From Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Our lives are “crammed” with heaven, the everyday intersection of life with God’s presence. Class is always in session for us because God is always teaching in everyday routines — imparting wisdom in noisy streets and marketplaces (Proverbs 1:20-21). Unfortunately, we stray from the burning bush to pick blackberries. Now is the time to learn, to ask questions, to pause and think.
Why ask questions in a global pandemic?
Asking questions is the birthright and duty of every disciple of Jesus. Author Jan Johnson writes that Jesus asked so many questions of his followers because he was training them “to understand that life with the Holy One was interactive.” Jesus used questions to create kairos moments by challenging assumptions, disrupting common beliefs, and calling people to commitment. Questions are good for us. Questions invite the Holy Spirit into this moment to be my teacher. Questions expose my heart to error and deception. Questions open my mind to new insights and application. How I answer questions will shape my character, my values, and my actions. Without questions, I miss the burning bush.
What kinds of questions should I ask?
Let’s move beyond routine questions, like “How can I upgrade my zoom account?” or “Is a mask required?” Let’s ask some heart questions. Here’s a small sample of heart questions.
-What am I learning about my “consumer life” and values when shopping is limited?
-What does my new schedule teach me about my values?
-What am I learning about my spouse as we spend 24/7 time together?
-What am I learning about parenting when school is in our home?
-What am I learning about loving my neighbor since I’m probably seeing more of them than in the past?
-What am I learning about God’s providence and provision in a time of political turmoil?
-What am I learning about my commitment to the practices of prayer and Bible meditation?
-What am I learning about which voice to listen to — the voice of culture through social media or the voice of the Holy Spirit?
-What am I learning about true friendship and how to care in social distancing and zoom conversations?
How we process questions is important.
Introverts need time alone to think deeply; extroverts need the company of others to process their learning. No matter how we process life, whether alone or with others, let’s seize the kairos moment. But, kairos learning does require some “alone” time. Like the prophet Elijah, we need alone times to hear the “low whisper” of God (1 Kings 19:12 ESV). Author Jean Fleming writes that: “We have become a people with an aversion to quiet and an uneasiness with being alone.” Sometimes being alone with God is a good thing.
I can’t resist asking one last question, “What are you doing to remember the lessons you’re learning?” I hope your answer is: “I’m writing them down.” I love this insight from King David: “How precious to me are your thoughts O God, How vast is the sum of them” (Psalm 139:17). God’s thoughts, his lessons for me, are so precious I must write them down so I don’t forget them. My journal from the past year is filled with questions, observations, and lessons.
It’s time to ask some questions. Martin Luther wrote that “Affliction is the best book in my library.” Our current “book” of affliction is living in a covid world. This time is a kairos moment, the place where life intersects with God’s presence. Questions seize the kairos time to learn from God. Questions will shape my character, my values, and my actions. Questions turn us from passive observers into proactive learners. Questions draw us into God’s presence so we can be singed by the burning bush. It’s time to ask some questions. Which ones are you asking?
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/turk_stock_photographer
Bill Mowry has a passion for creating ministry cultures where relational disciple-making is the norm. He and his wife Peggy serve on staff with The Navigators Church Ministries in Columbus, Ohio. Bill is the author of Walk With Me (Moody Publishers).