Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kairos Moments

I thought of calling this post “the ambiguity of time”, but what I really want to notice is the rich opportunity that every moment of life brings.

In Greek mythology, Chronos was ‘Father Time’, the personification of time in minutes, hours, days and years. But the wise Greeks also recognized that within the flow of time some moments are more momentous than others. There is a timeliness to things.

So they used a different word, ‘kairos’, to describe the right moment for something. Aristotle identified the point in an argument when the proof should be presented as the ‘kairos’ moment. Chronos is the quantity of time; kairos is the quality of time – time pregnant with purpose.

The early Christians used the word 'kairos' to identify God’s appointed moment in history. Jesus came on the scene announcing ‘Kairos - It’s time! God’s kingdom is here! - Gospel of Mark 1:15. That announcement echoed Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 49:8) of God bringing Israel home from exile in the (kairos) time of God's favor after their disciplinary 'time out' in Babylon. Paul writes that now, today, is the kairos moment for us to respond to God (2 Corinthians 6:2). This very moment is 'the nick of time' for some thing where God wants to intesect our chronos with divine purpose.

God gives us time with intention. No minute of our day is merely ticks on the clock. ‘Putting in time’ is a squandering of life. (Sabbath is an intentional variation on this theme that deserves a post of its own.)

It takes wisdom or highly tuned intuition to discern the significance of any moment. And that’s where ambiguity comes in. Qoheleth, the narrator of Ecclesiastes famously observed in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that life presents us with timely opportunities for contrasting things:

There's an opportune time to do things,
a right time for everything on the earth:

A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

Downstream from Eden can be a confusing place to live. Every moment presents opportunities for folly or faith, for courage and decisive action or for trivial pursuits. There are usually indicators within the context to help us interpret the best way, but it takes vigilance, discernment and wisdom. Which is why the ancient wisdom urges us to seek counsel beyond our own wits.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.

Image Sources:
Chronos - Lavrushin - Artween
Fetus - Unknown, ubiquitous on the Internet
Seed Pod - Tiffany Svennson
Evan Almighty - Universal Pictures

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