Most people have routines to begin their days, get through their days and bring their days to a close. Well-known Christian author C.S. Lewis (perhaps most famous for his popular “Chronicles of Narnia” series) noted, “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour ...”
The Greek language has two words for “time.” “Chronos” is measured time. We get the word “chronology” from this term. It is the approach that Lewis’ quote addresses. It is the minute-by-minute measurement that allows us to develop routines and plot the course of our day.
Time, when seen in this way, is simply a measuring tool or a reference point. For instance, we say, “At 6 p.m. we have a meeting.” Or, “I will wake up at 7 a.m. tomorrow.”
As the musical “Rent” reminds us in the song “Seasons of Love,” a year has “five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes” or so. However, this song actually gives us a glimpse into the other way the Greek language captures the idea of time.
The other term is “kairos” (pronounced, kai-ross). The idea of kairos is “meaningful time.” Specifically, the idea of a “kairos moment” is important in the Greek language. A major event is not just another chronological passing of the minutes. Instead, key actions and events make the time special.
In the song, “Seasons of Love,” cited above, after measuring out the minutes that make up the chronology of a year, the song asks another question. The question is: “How do you measure a year?” This is a “kairos” question. The song then answers things like this: “In daylights, in sunsets; In midnights, in cups of coffee; In inches, in miles; In laughter, in strife.”
So here is the point of this grammatical study.
How can we turn the simple measurement of time (chronos) into moments of significance and impact (kairos)? How can we at once maintain the basic routines that move us through time while also finding ways to create and/or embrace memorable moments that help make our lives more meaningful?
This is the question we get to answer each day.
There are no simple ways to answer this. We can take an extra moment to encourage someone. We can pause to appreciate a sunrise or a sunset. We can make a phone call or send a card to someone who needs it. By redeeming the “normal passing of time” (chronos) in these and other creative ways, we create moments (kairos) that stay with us and that bless others long after the moment has passed.