In Mark 1:15 Jesus declares, “The time has come…The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
The Greek word for “time” in this passage is “kairos”. And, unlike the Greek word for chronological time, kairos carries with it the idea of “the right time”, or “the appointed time”. (See Mike Breen’s book, “Building a Discipling Culture” for an excellent treatment of this.)
Jesus was, in effect, saying, “Now is the right time for you! God’s kingdom is breaking into your reality in a way that you can perceive it. Change your heart and mind and live out your belief in God!”
Our family often talks about “kairos events” or “having a kairos”. And, what we mean is that we have experienced one of those divine “Aha!” moments through which God is trying to get our attention.
Today I want to reflect specifically upon those kairos experiences used by God to warn us. The biblical language for this would be correction, rebuke, or reproof. The basic idea is that if we continue on our current path, at our current pace, something bad is going to happen IF we don’t repent and believe the good news.
I am a visual learner, so I tend to think of these kinds of kairos experiences as:
- Speed bumps
- Rumble strips
- Brick wall
Anyone who has driven a car for any length of time is familiar with these obstacles. In parking lots we encounter speed bumps. Their purpose? To slow us down and to keep those on foot safe. On highways we sometimes drift onto rumble strips. Their purpose? To warn us of immediate danger and to help us correct course. And, some of us have had the physics lesson of a vehicle in motion colliding with an immovable object. Splat!
How has this played out in real life for Sandi and me?
About 12 years ago Sandi and I were hitting some communication snags in our marriage. We blissfully cruised through the first 10 years of wedded matrimony with hardly a scratch, but after our third child and our first church plant things got dicey. We started arguing over silly things, and certain topics sent us on a downward spiral that was difficult to pull out of. We were hitting speed bumps and the kairos was “slow down and pay attention, God has something important to say that will keep you out of danger”.
So, we did the reasonable thing and went to Christian counseling. The first few weeks were wonderful as the counselor talked with Sandi about the ways she might be contributing to our recent struggles. I came home each time feeling great and excited to see what changes Sandi was going to make! Then the moment came when he turned to me… He began asking me about my relationship with my parents. He started suggesting that I may have brought some baggage into our marriage that was creating problems for us.
Rumble, Rumble…Rumble, Rumble…
I was feeling the vibration of the rumble strips, and I panicked. We got into the car after that counseling session and I told Sandi we were never going back to that counselor. And we never did.
Instead of correcting course (repenting and believing) I chose to not deal with the deeper issues. At the time it just felt too painful, and I was too proud to accept the possibility that I was the source of the problem.
So, we trudged forward, but never experienced the healing or breakthrough that we both longed for.
Fast-forward 10 years. Sandi and I are on a beach in South Carolina having a relaxing getaway. And then, seemingly out of the blue, we stumble on one of those forbidden topics. Within a few minutes we are going at each other. And right in the middle of our argument, I experience a significant kairos. The realization dawns on me that we have been having this exact same argument for 10 years!
It was a stunning and desperate observation. It made me feel incredibly stuck. An urgency began growing inside of me that day to get unstuck – to break free somehow and finally get past this same, stupid argument.
Two weeks later the other shoe drops, and God speaks to me again. I was on an airplane with our son flying to Kansas for a pheasant hunting trip. As I sat there in the quiet my mind circled back to that argument on the beach, to my feelings of frustration and desperation, and to a growing sense of helplessness. And then, God whispered to my mind and heart three simple words: “It’s your issue.”
There was no ignoring this. There was no place to hide. There was nobody else to blame. The time had come for me to own what God had been saying to me over all of these years. I stopped. I repented. I was finally able to trust God to go places inside of me that needed healing. I no longer cared about being right – I wanted our marriage back. It was the appointed time.
Over the next six months God did bring deep healing into my life and into our marriage. It involved me seeking out Christian counseling and starting up where I had left off 10 years before. How I wished I would have heeded God’s voice sooner!
The speed bump, the rumble strip, or the brick wall. What will it take for you to listen and respond to what God is saying to you?