When our children were young, they’d often run into the house to see how much playtime they had before supper. With a breathless gasp, they’d ask, “What time is it?”
My wife and I would glance up at the clock and with a quirky smile pasted on our faces respond, “Now.”
It wasn’t the answer our children expected, but it made us all stop for a moment and laugh. It reminded us to live in the present moment.
I wonder if our whimsical response pointed to a much deeper truth: the wholeness of linear and kairos time.
The Greeks had two words for time: Chronos and Kairos.
Chronos: linear, sequential time; and
Kairos: numinous, qualitative time
Chronos is human, man-made time. It’s the universal clock created ages ago to provide a uniform system of measuring time so we can stay “on-time.”
Today, we live much of our lives by this linear time. We’re awakened by an alarm clock. We travel to and from work at a certain time of day. We go to meetings that start and finish at predetermined times. We eat meals and go to bed according to the clock.
Kairos time is much different. It’s divine, unmeasured time. It’s the perfect, delicate, and fleeting rightness of time and place. Some call it the “Eternal Now.”
Jesus’ primary metaphors for the Eternal Now were “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” (John 4:35-36). Jesus proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:2).
He wasn’t talking about an out-there in outer-space heaven. He was telling us there’s a way we can live connected to God’s Eternal Presence in each moment. The Divine dwells in us. We simply need to awaken to the timeless gift of divine time—the wholly and eternal now.
Experiencing the Wholly Holy Now
When we take time to meditate, we enter the wholly holy now. We step out of linear time and connect with something or someone much bigger than ourselves. We move out of our heads and into our hearts. The outer world quiets as we enter our inner world—the one where our human hearts connect with the Divine Heart.
At the beach, standing in awe before a blazing tangerine sunset, we enter into a deeper awareness of God’s beauty unfolding before our eyes. The sunset’s beauty overflows into our hearts with warmth and love—the Eternal Now dwelling wholly within us.
When we pause for a moment during a busy day filled with time-clock responsibilities and return to an inner awareness of God’s abiding presence guiding us, we enter kairos time. We connect with the Eternal Now who sustains and energizes us.
A Gentle Balance
It’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking that chronos is bad and kairos is good. Chronos and kairos, like the two sides of the same coin, belong together. We need both.
Learning the different qualities of these parts of time lets us integrate them so we can live with balance. Wholeness.
However, in our hurry up, do it, and move on to the next task world, too often we live in linear time alone. We chain ourselves to the demands of a human clock. We become exhausted. We complain we don’t have enough time. Life becomes unbalanced. Overwhelming.
By entering daily silence and solitude, we connect with the Eternal Now in kairos time. Those precious moments of quiet open the eyes of our hearts to a deep awareness of God’s presence—a presence that then spills over into the active part of our day.
The Gift of the Wholly Now
Asking ourselves two simple questions can help us experience more wholeness in the present moment:
Am I aware of being more fully in chronos or kairos time right now?
What can I do to live in the wholeness of both?
By reminding ourselves we live in both human and divine time, we can become aware of the Eternal Now—God’s abiding presence in every millisecond of our lives.
We can experience the gift of the Wholly Now the Creator offers us.
What time is it?
—brian j plachta
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