While I was in active rehab from workaholism addiction – you can find more on that here – I learned a new way to tell time. Recollection of the significance of that lesson is very much on my mind these days.
Ancient Greek had two words for time. One was chronos and the other kairos. Both represented very different gods.
Chronos was a god known as the ruthless father of time in the sense of the clock or calendar. He was depicted as an old man with a long beard. By myth, he feared succession and ate his children. Chronos represents quantitative time and time that is anxious about the future.
Kairos, on the other hand, was a god who represented the fleeting nature of time. His image shows him with wings on his back and feet and a scale balanced on a razor-like fulcrum in his hand. This kind of time is about the opportune thing in the exact moment, how well discernment leads to fulfilled opportunity. It is qualitative in nature. This is the Ecclesiastes kind of time and season for each thing.
What I have found is that living by kairos takes incredible effort. Chronos time is default within our society and a part of our human nature; you can’t ignore the fact that the world is driven this way. It takes discipline to deprioritize the seconds or appointments ticking by and carefully weigh things for their enduring value.
For example, chronos was my whole family getting sick over the past few weeks, combined with a scramble at work, and the resulting lack of a pause on my heart or reflective space to pray and write it all out. It led to a tired and grouchy me, quick to reply with a short word and catch myself being someone I don’t want to be. Yet recognizing the product of that chaos, kairos is the timeout on my soul. It is the checkpoint and call to attention on how to better mark boundaries and rhythm so I don’t grow cold or lose all intentionality when the unexpected comes my way at home or work.
I challenge myself to live by this other kind of time.
If I unconsciously allow myself to only keep chronos at this stage of life, I easily find myself eat-your-children-kind-of anxious and worried. I start to churn with thoughts about how fast these little ones grow, what I am missing or not doing well whether at home or at work, who I will become or where I will be professionally in the years when our kids have moved beyond our direct care.
For me, chronos time is very much about insecurity and grasping for things beyond my control. It calls out earthly focus.
But if I consciously and prayerfully aim to live by kairos, I find myself weighing things carefully on that razor-balanced scale in my soul. I become more sensitive to what God is trying to work into me and where I need to listen. And repent. Or what my husband or children need from me today that is different than yesterday. Or how God is currently moving in the world and inviting me to play a role.
Kairos, for me, is about letting God guide me to what merits my focus and resting in the fact that He will. It draws my thoughts to what is eternal.
All said another way, chronos time will happen whether I do anything or not. However, some things will become clear and not entirely missed only if I fight to preserve a stillness that lets me hear Him.
I may regret some things about life by the clock, but I am sure I stand to regret far more if I don’t make the effort to evaluate and discern what is God’s purpose in what is at hand. This is the essence of the journey to number my days and live by what matters most. It is and will remain my constant pursuit.
I desire that divine purpose of God be how I live my life rather than to make a god the attempt to control a commodity not mine to own.