Chronos and Kairos

Chronos and Kairos

January is always a time of looking backward and forward. Taking stock and setting a fresh path. This seems like especially meaningful work for us this year, doesn’t it? 2020 was a year like no other. We are looking forward, in hope, that 2021 will bring release from the pandemic and a return to life in its fullness.

I think, however, that there have been some gifts in 2020. There are two Greek words for time—Chronos and Kairos. Chronos refers to linear or chronological time, which normally dominates our lives. Kairos refers to moments of special meaning and significance that bring a greater sense of depth and beauty to our lives. Hasn’t 2020 broken the oppressive grip of Chronos on our lives and awakened us to look for meaning and beauty?

Our Wednesday Wisdom group has been looking at Cynthia Bourgeault’s soon to be classic, Eye of the Heart. In it, she claims that there are spiritual realms interacting with our earthly realm. We all have experiences which are striking for us, but which can seem random. She believes that the spiritual operates according to a pattern which is different from our own. She invites us to pay attention to meaningful coincidences and striking synchronicities. We might be able to begin to detect a greater pattern at work in our lives, offering us guidance and a greater sense of coherence to our lives, which, too often, show up as random and meaningless, or trivial.

I set down earlier today and began to look at striking events in my life and to look for patterns. This isn’t the place to share in much detail, but I will share that it gave me a deeper sense of how God is constantly showing up and what the showing up is about—what my life is being called to be about. The pattern of spiritual encounter, Bourgeault claims, is like concentric circles radiating from a center with rings of resonance and beauty.

In my prayerful reflection, I put at the center my teenage conversion experience which began with a simple response to my girlfriend’s question to me over the phone of whether I believed in God. My response was, “I believe, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.” As the words fell from my lips, something in me knew that this was the question of my life. Would I bet my life on God? The concentric circles around this question revealed to me how the spiritual realm, which is not constrained by space or time, has been playfully and insistently bringing me to focus on this one central truth. There is a pattern to be seen and a grace and mercy too powerful to name. As we approach a New Year, it seems to me that time for prayer and reflection would be well worth our time, both Chronos and Kairos. Happy New Year!

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