A Time For Everything
By: Bryan Sampson
One of my favorite things to do while traveling overseas is observe people and cultures. I like to take on the role of an ethnographer as I observe and record just about everything that catches my attention. I am just fascinated with the differences in our cultures. One of the greatest differences between our North American culture and that of Central America is the way we see time. Here in the United States we are monochronic. We see our time linearly in chronological order. We focus on one thing at a time; things should begin and end on time and we don’t like people to be late or for things to run over the time we allot. While in Nicaragua they are polychronic, meaning they do many things at once. Their concept of time is free-flowing, and changes depending on each situation. Distractions and interruptions are a natural part of life, and have to be taken in stride. The polychronic culture shows greater commitment to people and relationships over just a job.
Looking at these two very different views of time I begin to ask myself; which does God prefer? I would have to say both. God is a God of order, the God of cosmos, not chaos so we know he can prefer the monochronic view, but I also know that God wants our availability and for us to be more relational. As one saying goes “God is not looking for ability but availability” Our monochronic view of time can leave us with too much structure and not enough room for spontaneity allowing deep meaningful relationships to build. What are we to do?
What I propose that we do this new year is create an awareness of how we see our time. Imagine if we could begin to analyze each situation and adopt the proper view of time to bring about the greatest glory for God. If we are in work mode a monochronic view may be best, but when you leave the office maybe it is time to change your view. Imagine what your life would look like if you could embrace each moment, each conversation, each dinner without the concern of the next event. I think we would be surprised at how much enjoyment we would get out of the simple things in life when we slow down and embrace what God is doing around us. I believe that by becoming more polychronic we will build real relationships that can lead to the salvation of souls while also experiencing the awe and wonder of His glory. It is when we begin to see our time as God’s and not our own that we may choose to spend it differently. Solomon says it best “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecl. 3:1). So how will you spend your time this year?