Whose Time?
Bree Elle Gardner
Emerging Leader


Until recently, I’ve kept the kind of schedule that’s easy enough to keep track of in my head: a 9-to-5 job, some lunch dates, a few standing weekend engagements. Like most other folks in my generation, though, things inevitably got complicated. School, a new role in church life and a part-time day job make for a more fragmented schedule, and one that changes week to week. Sometimes it feels like I’m playing “calendar Tetris,” squeezing in just the right meetings so I can finish everything in my inbox without being overwhelmed.

But there are more things on heaven and earth than can be wedged into a calendar app. Moments in which we can experience wonder are un-schedulable; there are many opportunities “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8), but they often don’t happen to fit exactly into our carefully curated hours. We sometimes talk about this as the difference between chronos, clock time, and kairos, “God-time.” Kairos is about the ripe moment, instead of measuring a steady sequence of seconds and hours. I think of it as being related to the experience of “flow,” forgetting about clock time entirely, when we become engrossed in something meaningful and interesting.

Training myself to lean into kairos and watch for those perfect moments is intimidating, but utterly rewarding. A chance to do right by someone or to ask for the help I need appears as if dropped in my lap: how could I not take it, calendar Tetris or no calendar Tetris? On a day that seems completely wasted if spent inside (and there are lots of those here in the Bay!), how many of us can resist finding a way to shuffle our schedule to bask in that glory for a (ripe) moment?

Most of us have had the experience of a problem becoming easier to solve after we’ve slept on it or taken a break. But more than that, watching for these ripe moments reorients the way we think about our time on earth. The idea that our time belongs to ourselves (or to our employers, as in “you’re on my time!”) is surprisingly recent. The anthropologist David Graeber points out that a few generations ago this would have seemed like a strange, even outrageous, claim, since it was then taught that time belongs to God. Maybe we can learn from this. Time isn’t ours to spend and ration; how would we act if we truly believed that each one of us is on God’s time, not our own or anyone else’s?