The team was excited. We were to have dinner in the home of a known University Professor in Uganda and the Anglican Bishop, of a substantial area, and his wife were invited.
At the dinner table, I was asked to sit beside the Bishop, a refined and dignified man. While their wives served the food, we enjoyed engaging conversation recounting those memorable moments of our 14 scheduled days in Uganda. The topic then moved to culture and the difference between life in Canada and life as we had observed in Africa.
My comment to the Professor focused on the value of keeping time largely because I was still adjusting to the African version. “You know, Professor, in our culture, if we are late by five minutes, we call and apologize.” He turned his shoulders to face me squarely, looked into my eyes and said with utmost sincerity: “I’m so sorry for you!”
He went on to explain that Africans to not run their lives by the clock like we in North America. They are much more concerned about build relationships than keeping things on time.
Does God keep North American time or African time? Neither. He lives in the timeless and has His own interpretation of time. Phrases like: “And it came to pass in the process of time” (Exodus 2:23); “in the space of time” (Acts 5:7), “in a little while” (John 16:16) and that dreaded word ‘wait’ found throughout Scripture, especially the Psalms, teach us that if we ‘live and move and have our being in Christ’ (Acts 17:28), we will need to adjust and align our lives to His interpretation of time.
It is one thing to love God, and quite another to love His timing. Trust issues for most of us do not focus on God’s character but on His timing. A natural season is usually a few months in duration. But a season under God cannot be predetermined and timed. Our need for God to fit into our time schedule will always bring a conflict. Hard, firm human plans with timelines have to surrender and give way for God to work.
Yet God often interjects Himself into our precise time schedule and does so for the African and their relaxed time system. And we stand in wonder at His timing!
What does God want from us, punctuality or relationship? Taking a scheduled time-out with God may have value for us because it is the right thing to do and can be programmed into our busy day. But God longs for and desperately wants relationship. Meaningful times of heart communication, mediation, listening to His voice, moving prayer from the mind to the heart, all surpass a schedule and require unscheduled time, spiritual hunger and initially work. A solid, lasting relationship cannot be made in snippets of time.
The Anglican Bishop had it right!
(First published in www.maranathanews.com June 6, 2012)