Cam Taylor

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Learn to Tell Time When Life is Out of Control

Check out my new book, Detour: A Roadmap For When Life Gets Rerouted! It’s packed full of practical help and inspiration to help you survive and thrive the storms of life.

One reality you run into when faced with traumatic events and adversity, is the loss of control. For those (like me) with control issues, trauma and loss can create some real challenges!

In the first chapter of Detour, I talk about control and some of the ways you navigate when control is lost. One approach I found extremely helpful was to learn how to tell time a little differently. To read this article online, click here.

Learning to tell time

The ancient Greeks had two words for time—chronos and kairos. Our ability to be more comfortable with a lack of control is influenced by our ability to set our clock to the time that best serves a life out of control.

Chronos time is defined as something we measure with a stopwatch. It’s what we race against and number our days by. Kairos, on the other hand, defines time as something we measure with a heart rate monitor. Kairos time is movement that can’t be counted. It is more about seasons and less about days.

Both chronos and kairos have a place. However, when we are rocked by adversity, loss, and life-altering circumstances, what is important is the ability to tell kairos time.

Solomon used the language of kairos when he wrote: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

An out-of-control life appeared where the road ended

When the crash occurred, time stood still. For two days, I was heavily medicated so I wouldn’t wake up. When I did wake up, I realized very quickly that the life I thought I had by the tail was now beyond my control. Not only had I been unable to stop the accident, I couldn’t stop all the consequences that would come next.

My life before the accident was measured. I had plans—seminars to lead, people to help, bike trips to take. After the accident, all my plans were put on hold. I was on God’s timetable, thrown into unmeasured kairos time. My neatly packaged, well-planned life had been tossed up into the air, blown apart, and scattered randomly across the landscape.

Kairos moments are opportunities that take us places in our minds and hearts that we cannot reach when we live on chronos time. After the accident, my life was no longer governed by the clock and the need to get things done on time. Things had changed drastically, and where the big and little hands were sitting did not matter.

We will never plumb the full depth of human experience if we live only on controlled chronos time. It is kairos time that opens up the door to new discoveries about ourselves, our world, our God, and what really matters in life. Embracing kairos time changes everything.

Know when your out-of-control life needs some kairos time

You need kairos time when you’re feeling bewildered and lost. You need kairos time when you wake up somewhere between an ending and a new beginning. You need kairos time when your dreams have been crushed or put on hold. You need kairos time when a loss has left you reeling with pain and numbness.

Many of life’s experiences don’t fit neatly into a calendar. They play out on their own terms, and, in the process, they teach us multiple life lessons. In the midst of these experiences, if you fight living on kairos time, you will only increase your stress and frustration level. On the other hand, if you accept the opportunity to live on kairos time, it will open windows through which new insights and transforming thoughts can stream into your life. You will gain a “kairos perspective.”

Four ways I learned to live on kairos time

  1. I prayed almost every day the following words: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is called the Serenity Prayer, and it was my friend when life was out of control.
  2. I connected with my greater purpose and used it as a filter to find traction when events and circumstances were beyond my control. I’m not sure where I would have been without a purpose to look up to.
  3. I learned to have the mind and teachability of a child. A child learns to walk by tripping over obstacles, falling down, getting back up, making some adjustments, then starting to walk again.
  4. I exercised my faith muscle and learned on a whole new level to trust a personal God who had my best interest at heart. I realized how little I really knew, and I embraced the opportunity to learn those deeper life lessons that could only be learned when life was out of control and made no sense.

May you learn to tell time when faced with out of control circumstances!

Download the introduction and first chapter on “Control” here.

PS. Get your copy of Detour: A Roadmap For When Life Gets Rerouted now. When you buy a copy, I have some bonus material I think you’ll like.

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About Cam Taylor

Life and leadership coach, transition & change specialist, husband, dad, leader, writer, life long learner.

2 Replies

  1. jen

    Excellent article. Thanks for using the Ecclesiasties example. There are so many seasons in life, even simple ones, like children being born, then leaving home, being single, then getting married, a ‘lifetime’ career that passes into oblivion, retraining for another one. All chronos time, it seems to me, needs at the same time, the element of kairos time in it. When we recognize that, accept it and then yield to that kairos time willingly, it would make life changes and decision making so much easier….gentler.
    The thought occurs that accepting and yielding to kairos time also makes it easier on one’s loved ones. I’m thinking of Norms elderly aunt, who lost her husband a year ago. After over 70 years of marriage and living in the same wonderful home and neighborhood most of that time, she realized that one season in her life has passed, and the time to enter a living assisted home has come. Her willingness to embrace this season of her life graciously has made it so much easier and comfortable for their son.

    Thanks again for your thoughts. jen

    1. Thanks Jen for your reflections on the differences between chronos and kairos. I really like the example of Norm’s aunt who was able to embrace the new season instead of staying stuck where she was. When we learn to embrace kairos time, we see new perspectives and are open to new opportunities that surface after seasons of adversity and loss. Thanks again for sharing, Cam

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