Have you ever experienced one of those moments where time seems to slow down or even stop? Where you're fully aware that something different, something captivating and wonderful is happening? It's like a switch gets unexpectedly flipped on in your brain and you're just.......Present. In.the.moment. (And no, I'm not talking about mind altering drugs. That would be a different, yet somewhat related topic).
The Ancients used different words for time. "Chronos" signified the linear lining up of moment after moment, year after year of ordinary time. The word "Kairos" was used by mystics and philosophers to signify a different kind of time-- in fact some would argue that Kairos has little to do with time at all. Kairos is really about the "eternal now", like an in-breaking of another realm that is outside of time.
On vacation in Oregon last week, my wife, Tracey, and I were wandering the beautiful grounds of Edgefield (near Portland) with a couple of dear friends. It was early evening and an earlier, light rain had moved on through. The live music of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros followed us up the green slope we'd climbed. Beyond the top of the slope, and beyond the distant rooftops a double (I argued that it was actually a triple) rainbow suddenly appeared as the clouds parted. After admiring it for a few moments we each drifted off, exploring on our own in different directions.
Each breath of the fresh air carried a wild, mixed fragrance of trees, wet grass,vegetables, flowers, and the dark loamy soil beneath it all. The setting sun filtered through the breaking clouds and treetops, adding to the otherworldly effect. And the music never stopped. As I passed through the gardens I came to a red door. The battered old door hung ajar in its rough frame, an almost magical-looking passageway between sections of the garden. Something about it held my attention, drew me in. I could easily have sidestepped around the door since it wasn't attached to any walls, but it felt right to walk through it. I snapped several shots of it with my iPhone then moved on.
It's been nearly a week and the beauty of that evening, and especially the image of that red door keeps percolating up into my consciousness. Some people believe that the universe speaks to us. My own grid of understanding tells me that a self-communicating God is speaking to us all the time, through all kinds of means and media, ie, "the universe". Divine communications roll outward through the entire universe in great waves of unceasing love. And they are invitational.
I think that's what kairos moments are. We've just forgotten how to listen. We each carry within us the often dormant capacity to experience a kind of resonance when we're in proximity to one of these "communications". Kairos moments are like signposts that point to the Door. As wonderful as they are, they are still merely hints about and foretastes of the truly abundant with-God-life we were born for-- an epic life of knowing and being known.
C.S. Lewis said, “A vague religion—all about feeling God in nature and so on—is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music.”
The "flowers or music" draw me to the door, that passageway from one part of the garden to the next. The Red Door beckons. I want to pass through, to see what's on the other side. Even now it reminds me that despite my periodic failures, brokenness, and just plain dumb behavior the door always remains open to me. And to you. It's not a high jump to test our spiritual athleticism or religiosity. It's a scarred and battered old door. And it's actually ajar. Give it a push. Knock first if you want. See what happens. Mystery and wonder await.
"Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened."
I invite you to pause and notice the next time your heart is moved deeply by love, compassion, nature, art, music, drama, joy ("flowers or music"). A kairos may be knocking on your door!
Maybe that moment that you wish you could hold onto forever is not just an accidental convergence of molecules, photons, sound waves and brain chemistry. Maybe it's an invitation..... to pay attention, to lean in, to knock, or to just go for it-- push the door open and walk through. What have you got to lose?