Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Ecclesiastes take two
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
1. a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
2. a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
3. a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
4. a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
5. a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
6. a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
7. a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
As we continue to experience and explore these words, it is good to note one other truth the wisdom writer is working with: chronos vs kairos time. Chronos is where we get the word chronological time. Linear time. Time that we mark and measure every single day. Chronological time that tells us when we are running late for an appointment or getting stuck in traffic or punching a time clock or logging hours. This is usually our main frame work and working definition of time. It is the predominate and pervasive metaphor of time today.
Kairos time is different. It is the time that is not about quantity but quality. Time that has meaning. I think about when my wife and I started dating spending hours upon hours talking. All the other "important" things faded away. Or the first time I held my children as newborns. There are moments that are marked in a different way than simply by saying, "It happened at such and such a day and time." Kairos time is that which is beyond time. Those moments when something major is happening in your life ~ weddings, deaths, birthdays, anniversaries ~ something so significant and yet the world around you keeps spinning. You want to shout, "Pay attention here." But to every one else it is an ordinary Tuesday.
I hope this helps with the difference because for the wisdom writer, she is pointing to Kairos time rather than chronos time. The struggle is that all of kairos time happens within chronos time. Chronos is the larger structure, container, but that doesn't mean it is more important. To dig deeper into the kairos, the beauty and brokenness of this one moment, to look at life with a microscope, that is the invitation here.
Notice that for the wisdom writer there are seven sets of two couplets. Seven is a complete number. You could also make the case that it is really fourteen single couplets, which is true too. Fourteen is simply seven times two, so it still has some sacredness. I think taking the two couplets at a time makes some sense and can help shine a light on what the writer is saying.
For now, I want to invite you to take the list above and write down one chronos moment for each word and perhaps prayerfully ponder the kairos of that moment.
For example, I can think about the day my children where born for a time to be born. I can think about the day my mom died for a time to die. I can think about the day we got our dog for a time to be born and the funerals that have filled my calendar recently. The deeper question is to put some meaning around these, how did that moment influence and impact me? This is the kairos question of the wisdom writer. And I believe it is here on the kairos level that the wisdom writer wants us to set up our tent rather than simply dwelling on the more chronos level. I hope this experience of letting these words speak and come to life from experiences in your life offers more than a trace of grace in your life.