'Not Now' Doesn't Mean 'Not Ever'

Apr 13, 2020

Post-ponements, rain checks, cancelations. Our lives are full of them. A birthday celebration, or actual birth, you were not able to attend. A graduation ceremony or wedding postponed. A family vacation or work event cancelled. There is not a human on the planet whose daily routines, and major life events, have not been turned upside down.

The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos was associated with actual “clock” time - measurable, consistent segments of time passing. Chronos is the time of day planners, project management deadlines, birthdays and anniversaries recorded on our calendars. Chronos time is the number of days you’ve been home-bound. The number of days your child has been home from school. The number of days that you haven’t been to the hair stylist, gym or coffee shop.

Kairos, on the other head, referred to the meaning of any moment in time. Kairos (the Greek god of Opportunity) reflected the intuitive sensibility of “the time is right…,” “now is the moment..,” “it was the time of her life.”  Its meaning captured the deeper significance of any moment - not because of the clock or calendar, but because of the context and content of life at that moment.

There is no doubt that many of the “chronos” moments of the past weeks have been disrupted for you. Still, a home-bound order doesn’t diminish our kairos experience of this time. In fact, it enhances it. Decades from now we will remember “this time” with more profound insight than any one calendar date that was cancelled or postponed.

The disappointment, even sorrow and grief, we feel over disrupted life events is valid. We have looked forward to them with anticipation, planned for months - even years - for the life transition they represent. But in the midst of these chronos losses, the opportunity to celebration the significance of the event still remains

You may not walk across the graduation stage as imagined; but no one can take away the accomplishment of your academic achievement. You may not have been able to gather as an extended family around a grave site, or held a newborn grandchild, but the ultimate meaning of those life and deaths moments are not diminished because of the physical absence.

The question I have for you today is - What “chronos" time in your life has been affected by the coronavirus crisis (specific dates on the calendar, anniversaries, birthdays, memorials, scheduled gatherings)? 

Now, and more importantly, what "kairos time" do these dates represent? A time of celebration? A time for memorial or mourning? A life milestone or rite of passage? The meaning, accomplishment and opportunity of those “moments in time” remain, even if the date upon which you publically celebrate them has changed. 

We are all becoming more wise to the truth in things unseen (or seen on a screen instead of in-person!). Let’s not lose sight of the kairos - the meaning of the moments of our life - while we count the chronos days of quarantine.

This is a time of opportunity. Many of you have asked why I chose 40 days for this series. The Latin word for forty is quarantine. Our modern time wandering in the wilderness. Let's travel together.

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