Every child hears it; some more often than others. “In just a moment…” a parent replies to an eager tot’s request for attention. “I’ll be with you in just a moment.” And for impatient youngsters, a moment may seem like an eternity while for overwhelmed adults, moments are precious and few. What is a moment anyway?
A moment is not a minute. A minute is a measured unit of time. A moment is more like a pause during which time may seem to be suspended. A moment often evades calculation. Moments are likely memorable, such as the moment you realize something significant. A vocation. A location. A destination. A person to love. A purpose to serve.
In the Greek language of the New Testament, two different words are used for time. The difference between them is reflected in the distinction between a minute and a moment. The first word is for measured time, chronos, from which we gain our understanding of chronology: sequential or ordered events in time. The second word is kairos to which some people of faith refer to as a “God Moment.” It’s a rich or full or significant or pregnant moment. It happens within chronos but is clearly distinct from the clicks and ticks of a clock. Kairos can’t be manufactured or scheduled. It happens from beyond us yet has a profound effect within us.
When we experience kairos we know it. And if we are in the company of others, we might need to plead, “Just give me a moment.” Whatever we have felt, whatever we’ve discovered, whatever has been revealed, whatever we have come to realize may take the rest of our chronos on earth to process and live into. That’s what a moment is. And that kind of moment may be present in each and every minute just waiting to pop to the surface of our awareness.
This weekend brings a big chronos marker to the fore. A date that signals a new year. When the clicks and ticks of our clocks reach midnight, we herald the extension of time. Many of us receive this additional chronos as an undeserved gift to use as wisely as we can. And so, we resolve to “turn over a new leaf” as we turn the calendar page to a new year. Perhaps a worthy resolution would be to look for the expansive moments within our extended minutes of life by becoming more attentive and attuned to the kairos within the chronos. That’s the beauty of a moment.