The women’s triumph was welcome news after a frightening few days.
Last Thursday, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Southern California. The next night, a 7.1-magnitude quake struck the same area. These quakes occurred on a previously unknown fault line ninety-five miles northeast of the San Andreas Fault.
Fortunately, no one was killed or injured by these earthquakes. Unfortunately, according to seismologists, they did not relieve stress on the San Andreas Fault or reset the clock for the “Big One.”
That clock is still ticking on the next catastrophe.
Are we overdue for the next “Big One”?
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the probability of an earthquake measuring magnitude 6.7 striking the Los Angeles area in the next thirty years is 60 percent. A magnitude 7 earthquake has a 46 percent probability; a magnitude 7.5 quake has a 31 percent probability.
In San Francisco, the odds of catastrophe are even higher: there is a 72 percent chance of an earthquake measuring magnitude 6.7 and a 51 percent chance of a quake measuring magnitude 7.
The “Big One” last struck the Los Angeles area in 1857, producing a 7.9 tremor. The USGS projected in 2008 that if such a quake were to strike the same area again, approximately 1,800 people would be killed and 50,000 victims would require emergency room care; economic losses would total $213 billion.
Scientists estimate that the part of the San Andreas Fault near Los Angeles ruptures roughly once every 150 years. It’s been 162 years. As CNN reports this morning, a major earthquake along the fault is likely overdue.
Every day that passes is one day closer.
“A thief in the night”
The fact that we don’t know when the next major earthquake will strike California makes its inevitability no less real. Experts are warning residents to prepare today for what could happen tomorrow.
When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we had a “due date” but could not be sure our son would comply with our calendar. The fact that we didn’t know precisely when he would be born made his eventual birth no less real.
Paul used this fact to make an urgent point: “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2–3).
Unlike the joyous arrival of our son, the day of the Lord will be tragic for those who are not prepared.
To ignore Jesus’ return because we don’t know the day he will come back is like ignoring the “Big One” unless experts can tell us the day it will strike. Or it’s like refusing to prepare a nursery unless doctors can guarantee the day our child will arrive.
Putting kairos in our chronos
The bad news is that millions of Americans are not ready today for Jesus to return tomorrow. It’s our responsibility to pray for them and do everything else we can to help them turn to Jesus before it’s too late (Matthew 28:18–20; Acts 4:12).
The good news is that, in light of our temporary and transitory world, valuing people over possessions and souls over states is both logical and loving.
C. S. Lewis: “If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilization, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilization, compared with his, is only a moment.”
Given the eternal significance of individual lives, Henri Nouwen’s observation is urgent: “Looked upon from above, our years on earth are not simply chronos, but kairos—another Greek word for time—which is the opportunity to claim for ourselves the love that God offers us from eternity to eternity.”
Chronos (from which we get “chronology”) is quantitative; kairos is qualitative. The former measures the years of our lives; the latter focuses on the life in our years.
One day closer than ever before
The fact that we don’t know when the “Big One” will strike or when Jesus will return makes their inevitable occurrence no less a reality.
Here’s what we do know: We have only today to help those we influence be ready for eternity. We have only today to put kairos in our chronos, to make the best of today while it is today.
And we are one day closer to eternity than ever before.
What will you do to make that fact good news today?