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The Fullness of Time

“But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands…”

Psalm 31:14-15a

At 34 weeks the amniotic fluid that has been protecting Baby Chris in the womb has reached its maximum level and will decrease in the coming week to make room for his final pre-birth growth spurt. All the digestive enzymes in his digestive system are now active and ready to process food. His body continues to plump up with fat to help regulate his body temperature. His lungs are almost fully developed. Most importantly, nearly all babies born prematurely at 34 weeks will survive without complications.

For the new parents these last few weeks of pregnancy are days of both excited anticipation and growing anxiousness. Mothers often grow increasingly restless, wandering the house, doing a final cleaning, setting things right – partly to prepare for her days of recovery and settling into life with a new baby, and partly to distract her from the worries that pop into her mind. “Will my husband be home when I go into labor?” “Will we make it to the hospital on time?” “Will my labor be long, or my delivery painful?” “Will everything be all right?”[1] (See Baby Chris Project Week 24 “Early Bird” for more about premature birth and Week 27 “Comfort Food,” for more about anxiety.)

Labor is expected to begin at 40 weeks’ gestation, but the actual date is often imprecise because of confusion about the date of the last menstrual period or intercourse, developmental size and a myriad of other unpredictable circumstances. But we do know for sure that at some point after this week, the baby will be born “one way or the other.”

The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos.Chronos” (KRO-noz) refers to chronological or sequential time, while “Kairos(KI-roz) means the “right, critical, or opportune moment.” When the Psalmist says we should “number our days” (Psalm 90:12), it means we should use our chronos time wisely because we have a limited supply or measurable minutes and hours; but when the Psalmist tells us that God ordains the particular days and length of our lives (Psalm 139:16), and when Paul tells us to “make the best use of your time,” (Ephesians 5:15-16), God’s involvement in that number is kairos time.

The Bible refers both to a particular time of completion and a particular time of new beginnings as “the fullness of time”: Sarah and Abraham were promised a son “at the appointed time” (Genesis 18:14). God told the Prophet Habakkuk that there was an appointed time for the fulfillment of his judgment: “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (2:3). Christ died “at the right time” for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes of the birth of Jesus as an event that was planned by God to occur at the right time to effect the redemption of those living under the Law (Galatians 4:4); and that God made known to us “the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:8-10). Peter reminds us that the Lord is not slow in keeping his promises and that the coming Day of the Lord is certain (2 Peter 3:7-10).

Just as the timing of a pregnancy and birth involve both chronos and kairos time, so does the timing of our response to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives by trusting our future to Christ as our Savior. Just as a mother – or child – does not know the exact day or hour of birth as a child from the womb, neither do we know the expected day or hour of our re-birth as a child of God. We cannot know when our chronos time on earth will run out and our kairos opportunity to receive eternal life in Christ will be lost. Our only certainty is that our kairos time is now.

“I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.”

2 Corinthians 6:2

[1] While it is possible for doctors to induce labor or perform a Caesarean Section before the baby’s projected due date when urgent medical intervention for mother or child is necessary, it is important to note that it is never medically necessary to intentionally kill a developing fetus in order to save a mother’s life. (Ectopic pregnancies are generally considered not survivable by either mother or child without medical intervention, and removal of the fallopian tube is considered an ethically acceptable medical treatment. In other situations, the child is delivered and should be treated as a patient. If the infant does not survive after delivery and life-saving treatment, that is not an intentional killing by abortion.)

Photo credit: REAL444istock

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