I have tried over the years of growing up to understand the psychology behind the ‘African time’ mentality.
It suggests that the right time for an occasion is one’s choice. Can you imagine every invited guest deciding that the right time an event starts is their own prerogative and subject to individual interpretation.
Imagine a conversation I had with someone else who suggested that the real reason why people have no ‘respect’ for time is because they did not respect who they were meeting! True? I am inclined to agree.
I also want to offer another perspective as to why we show up late or wait longer to do things. Fear. Yes fear. Maybe the inherent need to please others, to not appear too eager, too quick to show up for fear of being judged. Wow. I have seen many people in my culture, African, pull back on occasions when we were required to step up, make a decision, be first to try something new, own up, raise one’s hand, move to food area and so many others. Who will be first to step up is usually the question?
Into the mix is my Daddy’s interpretation of time. He says in His word that a thousand years is like a day! A day. So we can agonise over the delay of an event or promise, talk to Daddy and have Him say, time is Mine. What does that mean? He holds all timing and existes outside time.
Even more exciting is Daddy’s ability to reverse time, switch time, accelerate time, slow time or disintegrate time. He says in Joel’s book I believe, that He will restore the years the locust and cankerworm has stolen. My understanding is that time that we think we have Lost can be given back. It suggests that when we expect to have been in a different position, location, situation at a time, my Daddy can fast forward our current position to a new one, which will look like an acceleration. Promotion to a much higher than expected position is a good example, also recognition that defies rational human thinking.
Did Daddy not say, I declare the end from the beginning? He has such a futuristic view on things that He can tell us what’s to come and what we will become. He can reverse a death to life. He can restore a broken relationship, body, mind and give back what’s lost.
So is time important then? Is it more relevant to man to keep it in line, be in tune with it since God thinks differently?
I am still amused by this:
My cousin’s wedding ceremony printed a different start time on the invitation and programme than was communicated to the vicar. She was so delighted to see so many beautiful colours, garments and costumes, also displayed her amazement as such good ‘African timing’ that she thanked the audience. Figure that!
In Hillsong one of the leaders applied what I would call ‘superior wisdom’ when he was communicating the start time for a Volunteer stint. He asked the ‘African timers’ to attend one hour earlier but everyone else, he gave the correct time. Imagine the former’s embarrassment when they turned up at the correct time saying, “I’m sorry I’m late” to the amusement of the others who said, “but you’re not late, you’re in time.” I rest my case, somewhat.
Time on this side gives us a frame of reference, perspective on things, a way of measuring value, or comparing two things. It measures age, dictates duration of a procedure in a food recipe for example, tells us how long we have to wait to board the plane, catch the train, start a presentation or end it, how long the baby’s delivery will be recorded to take. It can be the most important factor when it comes to preventing brain damage in a patient who stops breathing.
I remember forming the idea that when we hold an event and give a start time, we get it off the ground as stipulated. I thought that we ‘punished’ those who arrived early by telling them we were waiting for others to arrive. For all we knew, the ‘others’ may never arrive. So it was decided that we get started and even bring the refreshments time near the beginning of the ‘proceedings’ to add value to time-keeping. So when the others turned up they would meet us at the door at the near end of the event.
Where did these thinking ideas come from?: ‘they will wait for me,’ ‘I want to be noticed when I arrive,’ ‘it doesn’t matter what time I get there’ ‘I will only be part of the later event’ etc
Is it OK to suggest before hand if we know we will be late or to refrain from attending at all to prevent the disruption of the ‘proceedings’? Who exactly needs to know that we will be late to an event, the organisers, the people we want to impress or everyone? When you figure this one out please write and let me know.
But if time was not that important, why do we apologise, get embarrassed , offer explanations and reasons when we are late? Is it because of the inherent need to please, or change how we are perceived?
I need to say sorry to the people I have kept waiting thinking it was OK. So I’ll be working on my time.
I think that timing and time-keeping is crucial, polite and respectful.