I don’t know about you, but I'm often thinking about “the next thing” instead of focusing on “the present thing.” Even though the time is now to do the present thing, I want to do something else, be somewhere else, or feel something else.
I’ve been working on a big writing project for a long time. Now is the time to read, think, ponder, and write notes about the subject. But I'm tired of doing this. Or, maybe I don’t trust that I’ll be able to pull it together into something coherent and meaningful. I want it to be the time to write the last, triumphant sentence.
A friend’s illness just took a turn for the worse. The time is now to feel it and process all the implications, but I don’t want to think about it, or feel it. I want it to be time for something else. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
We so often don’t accept the time given for a particular project, to-do, task, experience, or activity. And it’s all related to how we think about time. It’s hard to express this idea in English because it's so foreign to our way of thinking and being in the world. A time “given” for something? A time "set aside" for something? A time when it just “seems right” to do something? Sort of… but none of these phrases quite capture the notion, and they’re all a bit clunky.
Kairos vs. Chronos
The Greeks have a better word for this idea: kairos. Whereas chronos refers to an amount of time, kairos refers to the right, or opportune time for something. In the New Testament, kairos refers to the appointed time in God’s purposes.
Whatever we call it, we often resist it and maybe don’t even see it. We want to get on to the next victory, or get away from the present pain. We’re so often blind to kairos—at least to the more unpleasant or painful experiences whose time has come. This causes us to miss out on the richness of the present experiences life has brought our way.
there is a Time for...
As I find myself firmly—even if disconcertedly—ensconced in middle age, I've been realizing this more and more: every year, every month, every week—even everyday at times—there is a time for the many and varied activities and experiences in our lives.
A time to read; a time to write.
A time to be with people; a time to be alone.
A time to laugh; a time to cry.
A time to withdraw; a time to reach out.
A time to back down; a time to stand up.
A time to hold on; a time to let go.
A time to rejoice; a time to mourn.
A time to push back; a time to build up.
A time to criticize; a time to encourage.
A time to be distant; a time to get close.
A time to play it safe; a time to take risks.
A time to celebrate; a time to long for.
A time to make plans; a time to throw out plans.
A time to start things; a time to end things.
A time to say yes; a time to say no.
A time to express emotions; a time to constrain emotions.
A time to strive for what could be; a time to accept what is.
A time to be overwhelmed; a time to be empowered.
A time to practice; a time to perform.
A time to stay; a time to leave.
A time to embrace complexity; a time to simplify.
A time to learn; a time to teach.
A time to connect with like-minded friends; a time to reach out to those who are different.
A time to look back; a time to look ahead.
kairos moments: 4 practices
These are just a few kairos moments that resonate with my experience. I’m sure there are many more. They are not all pleasant, but they all have a place in leading a fulfilled life. The contrast between the mundane and the glorious, the unpleasant and the pleasant, the sowing and the reaping, gives shape to our lives.
The challenge before you and I each and every day is to be present with the time it is; to see and accept—even embrace—the kairos moment.
Here are four practices to help you foster a kairos life.
1. Establish daily kairos rhythms. There is a time for certain things each day. Figure out what those things are for you, write them down, and then write down the benefits of embracing each kairos moment during the day. The last step is crucial, because if you don’t see and feel the benefits, you won’t create kairos rhythms. For me, one rhythm is to take 30 minutes each morning to be alone, and reflect on my day and the big things going on in my life. Another is to take time to read and write every morning. The benefits for me are that I feel centered, ready to connect to the people in my life, and a sense of meaningful progress in some of my most important goals. When my day goes well, it’s because there is a right or opportune time to reflect, read and write, and I embraced it in that day.
2. Look for kairos moments. When significant events happen in you life, think about them in terms of kairos. How can you make the most of the opportunity? What can you do, learn, see, or experience with respect to this event?
3. Pay attention to signs that you’re missing kairos moments. When you're feeling drained or unfulfilled or lacking a sense of purpose, this is a sign that you're missing your kairos moments. Take a step back and reflect on your activities. Are you multitasking too much? Are trying to force something that doesn’t fit your core motivations and talents? Take some time to reboot and figure out what is the thing (or things) for which it is the right or opportune time.
4. Reflect annually on your kairos moments. What were the big kairos moments last year? What are the kairos moments coming into view for the next year. There is no better time to reflect on this than at the start of a new year.
What are your kairos moments? Please share them in the comments below!
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