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Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

If you are old like me, you know the next line to that famous song by Chicago states, “Does anybody really care, about time?”

Time is money.

Time is life.

Time is a big deal to North Americans. It is such a big deal we turned it into a moral action. We declare people who are late to be sinners.

No joke. I attended a seminar once, and since then several times others taught the same message.

They say, “If you tell someone you will be there at a certain time, say 3:00, and you do not arrive until 3:15, you sinned. How? You lied. You not only lied, you stole their time. They wasted time waiting on you and you stole it from them. You disrespected them. If you are late, you are a liar, a thief and disrespectful of others.”

I am sure my readers know this teaching.

It is a classic example of cultural values elevated to the status of moral and Biblical teaching. It is not true.

Time management is a wonderful skillset to posses. I practice and teach it to others. I maintain daily schedules, roles, priorities, and goals. I wrote on time management in two of my books, Before You Go and Live Your Eulogy. I believe proactive time management and time budgeting are great tools.

It is not a Biblical or moral issue.

In Ghana, as well as in Bolivia, I learned this. Let me explain it this way.

If you live in an area with great transportation, good roads, dependable vehicles and solid infrastructure, it allows you to plan better than if you do not. In Virginia, I knew it took me eleven minutes to drive from my house to the church. If I had an appointment at 3:00, I could leave my house at 2:45 and be a few minutes early. I drove on good pavement, well managed traffic laws and my car was in great condition. Contrast this to other areas with no roads, bicycles or walking. There might be blockades and if you use public transportation the schedules are suggestions at best and a joke at worst.

One day in Bolivia, I waited for a pastor I mentored. We met at 3:00 each Wednesday at a food court. This particular Wednesday I waited until 3:20. He did not come, so I left. The following week we met. Before the end of the meeting he asked, “May I ask you a personal question. It is difficult?”

“Absolutely.” I told him.

“Where were you last week?” He wanted to know.

“I was here. I waited until 3:20 and left. You did not come.”

He looked at me and said, with total seriousness. “Does our friendship mean so little to you that you will not wait for me?”

It blew my mind.

My mentors taught me that he was in the wrong.

He sinned.

He stole my time.

He lied.

He disrespected me.

He felt the exact opposite. I hurt him when I chose to not wait any longer.

We talked about it. I shared my perspective and culture. He said, “Blockades near my house stopped the buses and taxis. I could not take one. My bicycle tire is flat and I do not have money to patch or buy a new tube, plus I did not have time. I value our time together so I walked here as fast as I could. It is a little over seven miles. I arrived at 3:30 and you were not here. I walked back home. I not only walked here, I planned for you to drive me to the point of the blockade and cut six miles off my return walk.

I did not consider how my North American infrastructure allowed me to be so time precise. Bolivians could not plan to the minute. They could not plan on reliable transportation. They might have to go from a 20 minute bus ride to a 3 1/2 hour walk without notice.

We take Dengali lessons. It is the tribal language in the Ghanian city where we now live. Yesterday I asked my teacher a question about time. “What time do you switch from saying ‘Good morning’ to using ‘Good afternoon.’ When do you change to ‘Good night’? People use all three greetings and we wanted to use them appropriately.

“It is not exact. The vast majority of Ghanians do not own a watch or clock. They tell basic time by the position of the sun and by a guess as to how long after sunset it is. They will switch to ‘Good afternoon’ from 10:00 in the morning until around 1:00. It depends on where the sun is and how good the person is at judging time. In Ghana, time is not important like it is to you Americans.”

Another Ghanian pastor told me, “In America, you have watches. In Africa, we have time.”

He went on to say, “In America, your watch determines our relationship. You give me a certain amount of time before moving on to something else. In Africa, the person possesses more value than a watch. We do not let a clock control our meetings. We stay until we are satisfied with the outcome and relationship.”

I am not saying we should not use time management skills. I use them. My fav one is First Things First by Covey. It is the system I use. My point is we should leverage our time in order to be with, help and love people. It isn’t about getting things done. It is about being used by God in the lives of others.

This applies so much to missionaries.

We come from a culture of production before relationship. It is all about efficiency and making things happen.

I have things to do.

I have places to go.

I do not have time to wait with you or for you.

In other cultures, you are the reason I am here.

I have people to see, you.

I have things to do, be with you.

I have places to go, here with you.

It is relationship.

Look at all Jesus accomplished from the individuals He touched, folks He healed, lessons He taught, miracles He did and salvation He provided on Calvary. He did all of that, and never seemed stressed out or in a hurry. And, He did it all without a watch or device to help Him manage His time.

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