What does time mean for you? Is it your master or your servant?
I grew up in the UK where being on time or preferably early is an intrinsic part of our nature. School timetables and work routines teach us how to keep control of time and plan the activities for each day. Often, I would have the entire day organised from the time I woke in the morning until going to sleep at night.
Then I taught for a year at a school in Jordan. The mornings were structured like those in the UK, but the afternoons and evenings were different. The only activities planned in advance seemed to be weddings. I learnt to be spontaneous and host friends or accept invitations at a moment’s notice. My schedule was more flexible which allowed me to include visits to the Bedouin in the south. The timelessness of the desert slipped into my lifestyle.
But adjusting back to life in the UK took several months. My college friends had their lives planned and full diaries for the next several weeks. My diary was not only empty but tossed out into the street! I wanted to connect with people day by day, but time was the overlord and the ways of the desert a mirage; no wonder I soon found my way back to the Middle East. I moved to the crossroads of East and West, where time meets relationship and together they merge into Israeli life.
Still, I have needed to adapt. In my village, I run on ‘village time’, but when I drive down to Haifa, I am planning with ‘city time’. Village time means that I leave my house at the time arranged to meet someone who lives 15 or 30 minutes’ drive away. And even so, it still gives me the flexibility to have a conversation with my neighbours and then wait patiently while two car drivers greet one another, blocking the road. Village time approximates to arriving about 30 minutes late. City time means I have to mentally add up time for the journey and potential obstacles on our route and recalculate an arrival time an hour or so ahead of the actual time set. Where the tension of life ruled by time is woven through with honour for relationships, I divide my appointments into time or relationship oriented but often mess up!
I have an American friend in the village. To visit her, I need to employ city time out of context. The other day, I was late leaving my house to visit her. I mean, I was leaving my house at the time I was supposed to be there as though she were running on village time too. So, I was feeling stressed and moving towards my time-oriented mindset when I closed the door to my house. But I saw a neighbour I have not seen for several months whom I wanted to catch up with. Of course, I made time for her, and my American friend was gracious when I arrived late. She lives in the village after all. But had I been following my city time schedule from that morning, I would not have seen my neighbour at all. And a chance at renewing friendship would have been lost.
“The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore”