Grasping time by his godly tuft of hair
It’s a New Year. Chances are that many people reading this have made a variety of resolutions to do something different in 2017 to try and achieve their goals by year’s end. If you’re anything like me you’ve even drawn up your own personal quarterly calendar and mini goals. “I’ll accomplish this and that by this date. In 2017, I’m committed to finally doing this or that, making this or that vision a reality. Any life coach, or even just communications strategist worth their salt will tell you it is essential to have goals and timelines. And culturally, at least in many parts of the world, thought not all, we’ve come to imagine the month of January as the most fitting period to set these new goals, to start afresh and to schedule new deadlines and markers for ourselves. I’ve always been interested in how we mark time and in the ways in which we squeeze our life agendas into clearly mapped out timeframes. When those timeframes we have set for ourselves do not bear the fruit we desired it can make us feel like we’ve failed or are somehow behind schedule. We leave so little wiggle room for holy timing, the idea that God (if you believe in God), has God’s own calendar that most likely does not begin in any particular month of the year. And almost certainly rarely ever aligns with our sense of timing.
The Ancient Greeks personified time through as many as nine different gods, the most important one was Krono (Chronos). He was depicted as an old bearded god, the god of chronological time, and actually was a bit of a despot. Mythology has it that he swallowed his own children to keep them from taking his throne. Life under Kronos was determined and somewhat fatalistic. You can’t alter or turn back time under Kronos. Under Kronos, time measured in days, months and years eventually runs out. But the other Greek god of time, a more subtle and minor god was Kairos. He was depicted as young and ageless, a beautiful winged god with just a tuft of hair at the front of his otherwise bald head, often standing on his toes or on a razor’s edge. Kairos was the god of opportune moments and good timing. If Kairos came your way, you had a small window by which to seize him up by the tuft of his hair before he got away. He was fleeting and often unexpected. One had to be open and alert to the possibility of his passing in order to recognize and take advantage of whatever opportune moment he offered. The Greek concept of Kairos time is also found in the biblical narratives, representing God’s perfect timing as God moves and engages with humanity.
I wonder how our New Year resolutions and agendas could reflect openness to both these notions of time. Chronos time is real, time measured by the earth’s rotation around the sun. But it is also predictable. We know when night will fall, when the sun will rise, when a year will pass. So we try to schedule our lives accordingly, to create some fitting order to living successfully. We try to plan when we will get married or have the child, by what age we’ll become financially independent or when we’ll start that business. But as all of us know in one sense of another, Chronos time may be predictable in its passing but it certainly does not always cooperate with us. And when things do not happen “on time” in our lives we may think we’ve missed the proverbial boat.
But Kairos time is also real, those seasons in which the good and desirable things do not happen on scheduled time BUT still happen. Kairos is unpredictable and comes without asking our permission. But there is a sense in which I think Kairos time does seek our invitation, presenting opportune moments if we are open to receiving and entertaining those opportunities despite our own timelines and agendas. Kairos time is holy timing, perfect timing. As we start our new year, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to pray for the vision to see Kairos when he’s passing by, and to pray for the courage and wisdom to reach out and grasp him by the tuft of his hair, gratefully taking what he has to offer. It’s usually better than what we could have planned for ourselves.