Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Psalm 84 and the Theory of Relativity

The first time I heard Psalm 84, it was put to song, and I didn't understand it. One day anywhere can't possibly be as good as a thousand elsewhere, right? It's over too soon. Well, I was stupid. Time is relative in many ways. That one day would last much longer than the other thousand.

The Greek uses two words which we commonly translate in the Bible as "time." Kronos refers to the quantity of time, or the measurement of duration. This is where we get our word "chronology." Kairos refers to the quality of time, or the measurement of meaning. It's more like a season.

September 11, 2001 was, chronologically, just another day. As long as the earth kept going, September 11 was going to arrive, live out its commanded 24 hours, and disappear forever. But humans are not mere counters of things. We need to know why the numbers are significant. We are creatures of meaning. For humans, this day seems much larger in the collective memory than the day preceding it. I would venture to say that not many people recall with clarity where they were standing at 9:30 am on September 10, 2001, but the day after was different. It was not just another day. It was a much, much, bigger day. Lives have been dramatically changed. Global policies have shifted. Art has been created. Some say it was the last day of the 20th century, even though chronologically that's nonsense. Even greater weight than this can (and should) be given to the days of Jesus death and resurrection.

The past 10 days of my life were much longer than thousands of the days that preceded them. I had the privilege of traveling to beautiful places and encouraging people with my gifts in fruitful ways. I'll spend a long time unpacking them, reflecting upon them, making decisions based upon what happened within them. I don't recount them by day or hour, but by themes and motifs. In some ways, I'd prefer to do as Mary did, and keep them to myself, pondering the wonder of it all.

Time in the chronological sense will pass away, but the rich and gracious seasons of God's loving action toward us will roll on like an endless tide. Better is one day like that than any other indeed.

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