Keeping The Clock Wound

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 6

Chronos: our wristwatch and alarm-clock time. Kairos: God’s time, real time. Jesus took John and James and Peter up the mountain in ordinary, daily chronos; during the glory of the Transfiguration they were dwelling in kairos.

~Madeline L’Engle


When Emily Dickinson said “Forever is composed of nows” she was unifying Chronos the linear and Kairos the eternal.  We are tempted to think of time as somehow a deity unto itself, equal to God when it is only another of God’s creations.  It is a creature, and our understanding of it requires insight into its essence.  To judge it by its effect is to limit it to the capacity of our perception.

In Chapter Six of Walking on Water, Madeline L’Engle writes:

Since time was created, had a beginning, and will have an end, it is a creature with whom we can have understandings and misunderstandings. All artists know days when time collaborates with them and they can do more than they can do in one day. There are other days when they are equally diligent, and yet get little or nothing accomplished. Perhaps one of the saddest things we can do is waste time, as Shakespeare knew when he had Richard the Second cry out, “I have wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” But being time is never wasted time. When we are being, not only are we collaborating with chronological time, but we are touching on kairos and are freed from the normal restrictions of time. In moments of mystical illumination we may experience, in a few chronological seconds, years of transfigured love.

Have you ever had a kairos experience? What was it? Why did it feel like kairos and not chronos? L’Engle states that, though we live by a moderately consistent chronology, we each have our own interior clock that governs us. For example, she asks, “How long is a toothache? How long is a wonderful time?” Think about this interior clock for a moment and how it affects your art. When you are in a time of deep creativity, how does your chronological time compete with or complement your interior clock? When were you last surprised by the passing of time, be it slowly or quickly? What were you doing, and why do you think time’s passage seemed to change?

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