Time is perhaps the greatest resource that has been given to us. The Labor Department recently released the latest findings from its American Time Use Survey, and the results are enlightening as to how the average American spends their day. Compared to a decade ago, the average American sleeps more and watches more television, but spends less time eating and drinking and on education.
What is more interesting than the specific findings, though, is what the overall approach of the study reveals about our American orientation to time. We like to quantify, measure, and maximize our time. There is an entire cottage industry built around time management techniques. We want to cram and pack in more activities to our day so that we can produce more.
Carolyn Weber, in her book Holy is the Day, calls this approach to time “Chronos”, and juxtaposes it with a corresponding Greek word related to time, “Kairos”. “Despite how we like to think our time in this fallen dimension, chronos, measures quantity so precisely, it is God’s perfect time, or kairos, that is always about quality.”
Quantity versus quality.
As I was reading through the Labor Department’s report, I began to think about how we are trained to think about time as leaders. If you are in management or have any kind of responsibility over a team, you have probably been conditioned to try to help others maximize productivity by becoming more efficient with their use of time. And while efficiency in and of itself is not a bad thing, it can be hard to shut off that desire to have efficiency when it comes to our relationships with others, and especially our relationship to God.
When we allow this chronos orientation to time to seep into our relationship with God, we begin to treat him more like a vending machine than the Lord of our lives. We so desperately want control over everything, and we fight against what we perceive to be God’s indifference.
God’s kairos time is perfect, though. Remember when he surprised his disciples by wanting to spend extra time with the little children who had been brought to him (Matthew 19:13-14)? That’s the key word in this whole struggle of how we view time: surprise. God’s sense of timing has a way of completely surprising us. The two friends on the road to Emmaus were completely surprised when a normal day’s journey turned into the greatest conversation they would ever have in their entire lives (Luke 24).
Are you as a leader open to God’s sense of timing? Do you even ask him what he wants you to do with your day before you begin it? We will never experience the fullness of God’s blessing when we clutch so tightly to our desire to control every aspect of our lives. Leadership in the Christian context is about helping move people onto God’s agenda, as Henry Blackaby says in his writings on the subject.
So often in leadership, our focus is like a see-saw. We load up on training about how to maximize our time, how to be more efficient, and how to become more influential in our jobs. But the other side of the see-saw gets neglected, and we lose the ability to be sensitive to God and others. For as God opens our hearts to his timing and direction, he will guide us to the people and places throughout our day that need special attention.
In the end, the prayer of Psalm 90:12 is what we truly need: “So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.”