View from the Vicarage
The ancient Greeks had two words for time. Chronos denotes time as measured by a clock. That’s where the word chronology comes from. Kairos, on the other hand, means the right time or opportune moment.
One expert does a demonstration when talking on time management courses. Taking a large glass jar, he fills it with pebbles and asks the class whether the jar is full. They reply ‘yes – it’s full.’ He then produces a bag of gravel and tips it into the jar. ‘Now is it full?’ By now, people are wary. They’re not sure. Then he has a bag of sand and tips that in. ‘Now is it full?’ I suppose the response is ‘not necessarily.’ It is always possible for the jar to hold smaller and smaller grains without there being no room left, and he can still fit in a glass of water.
As a time management guru his aim is twofold. Firstly to persuade people they should complete the big projects first; but secondly, it is always possible to cram more and more into the working week if you try.
I am sure many unscrupulous employers love this approach. Even benign ones turn a blind eye to longer and longer hours. It saves employing more people, and these days firms rarely pay overtime. Over achievers take note.
Whilst not condoning the drift in the working week, having seen the effect it can have on family life and stress levels, perhaps there’s another conclusion we can draw? Some things are more important than others. They are the big rocks in our lives. Those are the aspects we should prioritise. Stuff we value most. Family. Love. Faith. Health. Wellbeing. Work-life balance.
Other things are less vital. Deal with them only after you have taken care of the big ones. But don’t exclude all the air. You can keep cramming more into your day, but don’t exclude the oxygen of compassion, caring for others, having time for people, and leaving room to breathe.
So tomorrow morning, think of this. What truly are the big rocks in my life? How can I look after them before all else? Am I filling my time with so much that I have no room left for leisure, relaxation, family life, and human flourishing?
Chronos is sequential. It just passes by, regardless of what we do with it. Neither faster nor slower, even when we are rushed off our feet or bored. We can’t stop it. But if we use up too much chromos, we leave no space left for kairos moments. Quality time. Time that has more value than mere chronos.
It might also squeeze out God from our lives. For what is chronos to us may be kairos to God.
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