A friend gives me a devotional booklet (Men of Integrity) that I read every day (well, almost every day!).  Recently an excerpt from David Henderson’s book, “Tranquility” told about two different conceptions of time that we have inherited from the Greeks (the culture in which the New Testament was written).  Greeks thought of time as either Chronos time, the normal “chronological” time of days, weeks and years or as Kairos time, those moments “freighted with significance, moments laden with momentousness,” times that change our lives when we experience them.

Have you ever had a time like that?  I have – more than one.  But right now I want to tell you about one that still touches my heart and influences how I care for people, even though it took place over thirty-one Chronos years ago.  I share it with you in hopes that it will be a blessing to you as it is to me.  It is a Kairos moment that is still with me.

I was visiting a nursing home when I met one woman confined to her bed.  She had bright eyes and a smile, but spoke in a soft voice that rattled with phlegm.  I don’t remember how I met her, but I remember her.  I was a student intern in a church in Wheeling, WV at the time, and I visited the nursing home frequently.

I got to know her husband too because he was often there at her bedside, showing his love.  I found out that she had severe osteoporosis that had led to fractures in her spine, ribs, sternum and pelvis.  I couldn’t hold her hand because I might accidentally break it.  What I did do was lay my hand on her bed, and she placed her hand on top of mine.  It was a limited, but human, touch.

She couldn’t cough to clear her lungs because she would likely break a rib.  That’s the reason why she “spoke in a soft voice that rattled with phlegm.”  Unless we experience it we don’t realize the importance of a cough.  Two or three times a day a nurse had to suction out her lungs, a totally gross procedure.  One time I was there but her husband was not, and the nurse came in and said, “It’s time to suction you.”  My friend’s hand was over mine on the bed, and when I said, “Well, I guess it’s time for me to go” (I did not want to be there for that), I felt the slightest of pressures on my hand, holding it down as began to pull it away.  I said, “Unless you want me to stay?” (and to myself “please no!”).  She said, “Oh would you?  When they suction me I don’t feel like a person.”  I stayed, letting her hold my hand.  What I was feeling couldn’t hold a candle to what she was going through.  “Thank you for staying with me,” was my great reward.

Sometime after, I went to visit and she wasn’t there, yet I will always remember her, especially when I visit someone hurting or sick, or dying in some terrible way or a family in grief.  None of us feel particularly human in those circumstances, and someone to remind us of who we are is a great gift.

That is a Kairos moment to me, a moment that ripped through the ordinariness of life and showed me God’s grace for that woman and for me.  What Kairos moments are you living in?

About Rev. Michael Burkley

Michael has been a pastor for almost 34 years (unbelievably to him) and for over 12 of those years he has had the privilege of serving in Albany Presbytery as the pastor of the Rockwell Falls Presbyterian Church. He is currently serving as the 2020 Moderator of Albany Presbytery and is very glad to be serving God here with us.

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