God Has Entered Chronos

This is probably obvious if you've read much of my blog, but I'm addressing this from an explicitly Christian perspective, and on the assumption that Melton shares at least some of that perspective. I think, though, that any secular Aristotelian could do mental language changes and probably still resonate.

My internets blew up a few days ago with links to Glennon Melton's piece, Don't Carpe Diem, over at HuffPo. A great deal of my internets consists of other moms in the trenches, and it seems like they almost all resonated very strongly.

So did I. Melton's objective, to release us from The Guilties over not enjoying every minute of screams and dirty diapers and stress, is one I wholeheartedly support. Our cultural discourse about motherhood is filled to the brim with blame language and mother shaming, and anything that helps us move away from that is awesome.

This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life - while I'm raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I'm not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I'm doing something wrong.
Boy, do I hear that. A great deal of motherhood, especially in the early years, is just...boring drudgery. Ecstasy inducing it is not. Melton draws a comparison, a good one, to climbing Mount Everest:
They try because even though it hurts and it's hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers -- "ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU'LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN'T!" TRUST US!! IT'LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!" -- those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.
Haha! Yes. Parenting is basically the hardest thing ever. And I strongly resonated when Melton asked,
Why is it that the second a mother admits that it's hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she's not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn't add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it's so hard means she IS doing it right...in her own way...and she happens to be honest.
I agree: the whole "If parenting is so hard why are you having more kids?" line is irritating and specious. You don't not do good things just because they're hard. So far, awesome.


Minor quibble coming.

From here Melton draws out two ideas of time:
Chronos time is what we live in. It's regular time, it's one minute at a time, it's staring down the clock till bedtime time, it's ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it's four screaming minutes in time out time, it's two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.
Then there's Kairos time. Kairos is God's time. It's time outside of time. It's metaphysical time. It's those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them.
She offers some examples:
And then I look at my cart and I'm transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles and piles of healthy food I'll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world's mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos. 
Gratitude for provision. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Good, good.
Or when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to them both breathing. And for a moment, I think- how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth? Kairos. 
Again-- humble gratitude is so very important.
Like when I actually stop what I'm doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is. I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can't hear her because all I can think is -- This is the first time I've really seen Tish all day, and my God -- she is sobeautiful. Kairos. 
Appreciating your kids for the glorious, unique little humans that they are: also incredibly important. The attitudes that she's cultivating in these moments are critical, emotionally, for having the stamina to get through the crappy days.

But here's my caveat:

My problem with Melton's definition of kairos is that she has reduced it to moments that are about feelings, moments that are the inconsistent and unpredictable irruptions into our consciousness of the reality that is always present. And the hard, messy, deeply real work of parenthood? Is about so much more than just our feelings and awareness.

See, God's time is not limited to kairos as Melton defines it. God has entered chronos. God entered chronos in the person of Jesus who worked, healed, preached, suffered, died and rose.

God has also entered chronos in the very mundane, messy, frustrating, squalling bits that make up most of life for the parents of young children. Parenting is sanctifying, humbling, character-building work. It's among the messes and frustrations--not the warm, fuzzy moments--that God does the work of redeeming and renewing us as human beings. They might not be enjoyable, but this job is not about our enjoyment, and we can be grateful for things that we do not necessarily enjoy. That flood of chronos moments is where we get to practice the kind self-sacrifical love and self-denial and unselfishness that form us into better human beings.

So I think we should be cultivating gratitude for all of that mess--intense, overwhelming gratitude.

Every minute of the day.


Kimberly said...


I think she would probably agree with you.

Perhaps it is important to find the Kairos within the Chronos, eh?

Julia said...

That "don't carpe diem" essay did not really resonate with me, not because I walk around blissed out all the time and never have a bad day, but because I DO want to be reminded that being a mother to small children is an amazing thing full of joy and wonder. Her perspective brought me back to our time in Dallas, where it seemed like all the mothers in my social circle were unhappy and negative about their lives and did not actually enjoy being with their kids (while at the same time parroting the evangelical party line that being a stay-at-home mom was the "right" thing to do). I appreciate honesty about parenting being hard but I don't resonate with the perspective of mothers who don't seem to actually like doing the business of mothering. I don't know-- maybe that's me indulging in mother-shaming of my own.

Mary Bogan said...

I saw that piece floating around the 'net, but I didn't read it. I do love what you said about character building. As I've grown older and have--hopefully--experienced that growth of character, I appreciate so much the lessons and perspective living through the day-to-day has brought to me.

Dawn's Art Site said...

Well said Sherri. I never saw it that way until I read this. My Mom always said to me, "Want to be unselfish? then have children" and the more I am a Mom the more I see it shaping me too. I think only God could shape so many at one time! ha! I do think that there are moments I have to shake myself awake and really LOOK at them and not the many hurdles throughout the day but their hearts and their minds. I want to be the first to have really SEEN them. :)