By Katie Eskro
Time is the most precious gift in our possession, for it is most irrevocable,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer says. Most people would readily agree with Bonhoeffer and view time as an important commodity. But are most of us using the time given to us wisely, remembering that it is a gift that should not be taken for granted?
Jody Cihak, a parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish in Aberdeen, is not a stranger to the busyness of life. As a mother of five children ages 24 down to 10, she recognizes the struggle to balance the family schedule with intentional family time. For Jody, intentional family time is most often embedded right into the busyness of life, using car rides, for example, to check in with her children and ask them to share about their day.
“We often measure time by large events or trips, but I have found the most impactful times are the small moments and the conversations that flow from them,” Jody says. “I have also had to learn that, many times, they just need me to listen.”
Because Jody recognizes she needs intentional time in prayer to engage deeply with her family, she gets up before her children and has a cup of coffee as she prays the Rosary. “The quiet beauty of the morning allows me the silence to allow the Holy Spirit to place people and things on my heart, that I might include them in this sacred time,” Jody says.
After her prayer time, she is ready to help her children prepare themselves for their day. Amid the busyness of preparation, they try to find time to talk about the upcoming day. “We chatter about the day’s tests, papers and social dynamics while eating and packing lunches,” Jody says.
All evening activities center around the supper meal for the Cihak family. It is important to Jody that they try to share a family meal together, where they can reconnect and share with each other about their day. When needed, supper is simple and easy, but they always try to sit down together regardless of how busy their schedules are.
“[Supper time] is our time together, and in years to come, we will cherish the conversations and silly moments far more than games, tournaments and performances,” Jody says. “Of course, there are seasons when flexibility is extremely important.”
For different families at different stages, their intentional family time will look different. They might bond over game night, read-alouds, building block towers, playing together, going shopping together, etc. For families of young children, their special time may happen while diaper changing, bath time, singing nursery songs or snuggling.
“Children grow up faster than you think,” Jody says. “Embracing the beauty of each stage must be intentional and a grace.” Slowing down and enjoying as many small moments and happenings as possible will bring joy and peace into relationships. It will also lay the groundwork for deepening trust as children grow up. “It is an amazing gift when your children entrust their hearts and worries to you,” Jody says. “Always treat it as sacred ground.”
As a whole, Jody’s life revolves around her vocation as wife and mother. “Everything I do connects to my family, but it is the intimacy with each one that is precious,” Jody says. “Moments can be profound more because of perspective than orchestrating events.”
Chronos versus kairos time
This idea of using the time available to us and being intentional in the small moments is not a new concept. The ancient Greek philosophers held two notions of time: chronos and kairos. Chronos time is the chronological way of viewing time—making schedules, planning a day by the hour, and overall just being aware of the time ticking by. Kairos time, on the other hand, is entering into the moments of time with an intentionality of awareness that fully appreciates the moment.
Father Brian Eckrich, pastor of Pastorate 7, says, “Kairos is a quality of time, not concerned about the past or future, but rather the present moment. Kairos liberates us to live in the moment …” Too often, it is easy in our fast-paced world to be sucked into chronos time, so concerned with the day’s schedule and getting where we need to be and finishing our to-do lists that we miss out on invaluable kairos time, both for ourselves individually but also as a family. Father Eckrich encourages that kairos time is possible even in the midst of juggling everyone’s schedule.
“Family life can be busy—going from one place to the other, getting the kids ready for school, attending this athletic event, going to that event, feeding, bathing, going to work … the list goes on. Consider in the midst of busyness how present you are to any one moment,” Father Eckrich says. “[And] give yourselves free time to simply be with each other—put away technology, share a meal together, go to the park, have good conversations, be interested in hearing about one another.”
Understanding these two types of time and the balance between them is necessary in order for relationships to stay healthy and flourish. We don’t have to stop being busy to intentionally invest in relationships, but in the midst of our busyness, we can become more aware of the opportunities we have to connect with those around us.
“Kairos promotes human connection and relationships,” Father Eckrich says. “Chronos keeps us distracted, anxious and unfulfilled; it blinds us to the presence of the other and traps us in isolation.”
Learning how to slow down and enjoy the present moment can help deepen and strengthen our relationships with family and with friends. “Kairos, in making us present to the moment, directs our attention to the presence of people in our lives. Our heart and mind is fully focused on the other for their own sake,” Father Eckrich says. “What follows from this is the bond of friendship—spouses attentive to the presence of the other become friends, siblings and cousins become friends, families become friends with other families.”
Kairos time and the spiritual life
Perhaps the greatest examples of kairos time can be found in the liturgy and many devotional practices. Prayer can help to slow us down and make us aware of the present moment. Mass as well can be a place where time is entered into deeply.
“Walking into the church is like coming home for Sunday dinner,” Jody says. “You are there because the Father invited you, longed for you and gave you the grace to say yes. The minute you set foot inside, great joy from the Father pours forth. You are home.”
Jody has noticed that, as her spiritual life has deepened, she has had a further capacity to live kairos time in the liturgy. “As I have grown in intimacy with God through prayer, the depth of my ability to settle into the Mass and have it be a time of great closeness has increased,” she says.
Father Eckrich also reminds us, “God does not exist in time.” Every moment is present for him. “So if we desire to encounter God … we accomplish that by living in the present moment; for it is the present moment which touches God and his eternity.”
In the messy and busy moments of life in which God is always present to us, we are reminded that our problem with time isn’t that it’s going by too quickly, but that we sometimes forget the gift that time truly is to us. When we can pause to listen to our children tell us about their day, or smile at our spouse, or wait to do the dishes and join in the epic dance party in the living room instead, we can feel the largeness of the moments of time as they pass by.
Ultimately, our life and happiness depend on us being able to live time in a kairos way—seeing each moment as a gift and engaging with others in the little moments of life. As Father Echrich says, “Kairos is the time that instills fulfillment and happiness.”
Katie Eskro is a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Aberdeen, where she works as coordinator of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She has a degree in journalism and is pursuing a master’s degree in philosophy.