On Time: To Be or Not to Be, That is the Question

Yes, now I’m one of those people who misuses that quote from Hamlet to be (not even very) clever. Even I am rolling my eyes at myself, don’t worry.

Okay, so, many times I have arrived at an event 15 minutes and been the first person there. Or I’ve come on time and waited 45 minutes for the event to start, getting everything ready and then twiddling my thumbs.

What does Christ-culture look like in terms of being on time? Because that’s what we want. Not to impose American culture or to treat Peruvian culture like there could never be anything wrong with it, but to understand what Jesus’ church would look like. Would they be on time? In as much as it is considerate to others to be on time, yes. Would they put being on time over people, over building relationships, over understanding that some days life is rough and you can’t get to church on time? Absolutely not.

My struggle comes when I don’t know what is required of me, in terms of being on time. It’s hard to be the ones who are there on time to everything, who make the sacrifices of getting up earlier, forgoing things you want to get done, being rushed, in order to sit around and wait for anyone else to show up. So, it’s easy to slip into being later to things, but then you’re contributing to the lateness of everything. It’s like that book we read when I was a kid, What If Everybody Did. If everyone came late because everyone else comes late so why come early, then everyone would come late and meetings would start 45 minutes late. And is that okay?

And it’s also hard when you’re required to be on time every day, for people who themselves aren’t required to be on time. This is what the other interns have to do every day at House of Glory.  They have been asked by the director to be on time every morning to watch the babies while the moms have school, but the moms sometimes don’t have the babies ready to leave for another half an hour or longer. But the interns have to be there at a set time, on time, should the moms happen to have the babies ready at that time one day.

I sound like I’m grumbling about this, but what I’m realizing is that this is what Christlikeness means for me in terms of lateness/on-timeness: Jesus would be on time to things, serving by being there and prepared, picking up the slack for people, but not as a way to change the culture or passive-agressively try to show people what they ought to be doing, but because He loves them and He wants to serve them. He chooses the portion that is unfair, like being consistent for people who are inconsistent. I can follow Him by being the one to be there on time and get things ready, and by doing this with a good attitude, doing this because I love my brothers and sisters here and I want to serve them, not because I want to change them.

“Every time you love, you reenact Christ’s death.” My role is to take the unfair part, the harder part, the inconvenient part and to take it with love for my brothers and sisters.

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3 Comments on “On Time: To Be or Not to Be, That is the Question”

  1. K Keyser says:

    You are grappling with a perfect example to a key to cross-cultural ministry (which I am preparing a talk on right now!). Understanding another person’s cultural lens (without assuming or communicating that our own lens is best) is key (in non-moral issues). But oh, what dying to self this entails. Good job!

  2. Oh boy, have you ever got this thing nailed down…in words, at least. It is harder to do…much harder. Yes, we want to be like that, but it is so easy to grumble while we do it and certainly be critical of those who have not yet learned that to steal others time is not kind. We all must learn “Be ye kind one to another”.

    But, as you said, there will always be those who turn the other cheek, offer forgiveness, but yet when the time is right “speak the truth in love” so that others will learn what being a follower means. Lord, make us examples and help us imaging your smile.

  3. […] Serious Thoughts about loving others, about whether to be on time in a culture where lateness is a way of life, about missing […]


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