What Time is It?

When it comes to my workday, I tend to stick to a regimen. Among other things, the regimen consists of eating lunch at 12pm. It’s lunchtime. That’s about the same time that most people eat lunch. It works for me.
On the weekends, I tend to stick to the same schedule. This is a fact that my wife is acutely aware of:
     “Sweetheart – it’s lunch time. What do you want to eat?”
     “Why do you want to eat now? I’m not hungry.”
     “It’s twelve o’clock – lunchtime. It’s time to eat.”
     “Why do you want to eat – because you’re hungry, or because it’s twelve     o’clock?”

Hmmm…

My wife’s observation, beyond pointing out the fact that I can get stuck in my schedule, is extremely relevant when it comes to our discussion of how we see time, and how we use technology. In Scripture, God reveals two perspectives on time that are useful in this discussion. The one concept of time can be seen in Paul’s re-telling of his voyage to Rome in Acts, Chapter 27:6-9:

 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.

 9 Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement.[a]

 Paul is describing how, due to stormy weather, the trip to Rome took more time than expected. Here, time (referred to as chronos in the Greek) is measurable and quantifiable. Time is a number on a watch face or a day on a calendar. This is how most of us interact with time on a regular basis. Businesses run on this type of time. Meetings are scheduled and contracts become binding based on this type of time. An event finds it’s meaning based on a moment defined by the clock. Because the clock says it is this moment in the day, then this event needs to take place (like lunchtime).

Since chronos is quantifiable, it is the type of time we most often deal with when we use technology. A meeting reminder alerts us 15 minutes before the start of the meeting. We get a beep or a buzz the second a new message arrives in our Inbox. We want to receive the news and information we like faster and faster. Moments and task find their importance based on the output of a time piece.

A second concept of time is illustrated in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

 1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2     a time to be born and a time to die,
 a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3     a time to kill and a time to heal,
 a time to tear down and a time to build,
4     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
 a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6     a time to search and a time to give up,
 a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7     a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8     a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Here – a “time” or “season” is a bit more of an abstract concept. Called kairos in Greek, this concept of time is not governed by a clock or calendar. Time, as described here, is based on the suitability of the circumstances involved. The state of conditions is such that this thing (whatever it is) is ready to take place. The time is right. This concept of time is based on judgment and discernment. For us to be capable of identifying these kairos moments, we aware of what’s going on around us. We need to be sensitive to changes in people and circumstances.

The challenge that we are faced with is that as technology becomes a bigger part of our lives, we are being governed by chronos time – time dictated by the calendar. Our jobs and our families are expecting more from us. Our devices constantly alert us of new bits of information that need our immediate attention. To answer all these screaming voices and fill all of these outstretched hands, we resort to multi-tasking – typically with the aide of a digital device. We answer emails while with our family. We bring more work home. We send texts while out with friends.

As we use multi-tasking to satisfy our chronos time responsibilities, we are at risk of missing out on important kairos time moments. The divided attention required in multitasking makes it harder to be aware of the conditions around us. Being aware of circumstances is required to be able to discern the “right” time. That moment when a stubborn friend is open to hearing your thoughts. Or the moment when a troubled family member needs to hear an encouraging word from you. These moments aren’t set by a calendar or clock. These are moments that occur when the conditions are right for them to happen. We need to be attentive in order to discern when these kairos moments are upon us. In other words, we need to be present. Kairos doesn’t work in a multi-tasking world.

How do we ensure that we will be ready and available when those kairos moments occur?

We must be willing to draw lines. We must be willing to put limits on the technology-enabled flood of information that flows into our consciousness. Before we jump to answer the next alert from our digital device, we must assess the importance of the moment we are in. Part of that assessment must include the understanding that time “doing nothing” or “just hanging out” with people is important. Important enough to set aside time to ONLY do that and nothing else. We must also accept the fact that there are times when we simply can’t effectively do two things at once, even though technology appears to give us that ability.

We must live in a way that reflects an appreciation of both chronos and kairos.
Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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