“RIGHT ON SCHEDULE”
July 25, 2008
I checked my watch as we walked up to the front door of their house and rang the doorbell. It was precisely two o’clock. For once in our lives my wife and I were right on schedule. As we greeted our friends and entered their home I silently thanked God for the lighter than normal freeway traffic which contributed to our punctuality. I certainly did not want to offend these people by being late to their party. For the past several months we had been experiencing a growing friendship with this Hispanic family having enjoyed doing church in their home on several occasions. Now they had invited us to their two-year-old son’s birthday party. We rejoiced at how we were being accepted into their family. However, we were about to receive a timely lesson in Latin American culture.
Babs and I were obviously the first people to arrive at the party. Our friends were still busy with a myriad of last-minute preparations. Dad was in the backyard trying to light a barbecue grill while keeping a watchful eye on Pedro, the birthday boy, who was far too hyped up to keep out of trouble. Mom and grandma were in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on an amazing feast. By the quantity of the food they were preparing I ascertained they were expecting quite a crowd. After asking what we could do to help, Babs and I were soon busy cutting up fruit, setting up chairs, fussing over a finicky grill, and helping to coral a little boy. We were so caught up in our labors we lost track of the time. When the charcoal finally looked like it was getting hot enough to cook the meat, I stole a glance at my watch. It was now three o’clock and we were still the only guests present.
We decided to go ahead and put the meat on the grill figuring the other guests would show up at any moment. But after most of the beef and chicken had been cooked to perfection no one else had arrived to enjoy the feast. By four o’clock we were hungry enough to forgo waiting another minute and opted to fill our plates and enjoy the fruit of our labor. The food was delicious and the fellowship was sweet as we leisurely ate our fill of rice, beans, salad, fruit, chicken and beef. Would we be the only ones who bothered to come to their party? Our friends began to wonder what they were going to do with all the leftover food.
By five o’clock we decided to let Pedro open up the birthday present we had brought and soon we were engrossed in watching him play with a new toy helicopter complete with lifelike sounds and flashing lights. Since we had promised some other friends we would stop by to see them sometime late that afternoon, Babs and I began to wonder if we should be preparing to leave. We hated to make our exit without seeing all the other guests, but we had already spent most of the afternoon with our friends. Then, nearly four hours after the party was scheduled to begin, the other invited guests began to arrive. Within a few minutes another twenty people had crowded into our friends’ home and spread out into their backyard.
As far as I can tell not a word was spoken about the tardiness of these late-arriving guests. They were all welcomed with great enthusiasm and accepted into our fellowship. Babs and I shook our heads and marveled at a culture that placed so little value on punctuality. Yet as I have been pondering this event I have begun to realize they simply have different priorities than our own culture. Whereas most of us in this country live under the tyranny of the almighty clock, these people have refused to bow to its rule. Instead, they place family above schedules. Reunions with family and friends are too important to be rushed and much too treasured to be highly programmed.
Even though many of us can get frustrated at the Hispanic culture’s apparent lack of concern for time schedules, their approach is not necessarily wrong; it’s just different. Indeed, it may even be healthier. Taking a siesta in the middle of the afternoon is an excellent way to reduce stress and refusing to cram too many activities into too short a time frame may actually lead to fewer strokes and heart attacks. I wonder what would happen in our society if all clocks suddenly ceased to function and we were forced to tell time simply by the position of the sun. I’m guessing those of us who are too highly programmed by the clock would quickly go insane.
We are obsessed with time. It has become our most treasured commodity. We are hopelessly addicted to it. Our modern world has blessed us with a myriad of time-saving gadgets, yet we never seem to have enough time. The more we save, the more we crave. Time wakes us up in the morning and dictates when we work. It rules over our labor, our eating, our sleeping, and our playtime (if it graciously allows us any). Time even dictates how we worship God (Sunday morning, 11:00 to 12:15 sharp—just enough time to catch the brunch menu at a local restaurant). For some of us, time has become our God. We wear its image on our wrists, display it on our appliances, and decorate our homes with it. We gladly submit to its rule over our lives allowing ourselves to be enslaved by its ever-present sovereignty. Our worse nightmares involve traffic jams, red lights, slow-speed internet, and having to take a number. Our personal version of hell involves having to spend time in the dreaded waiting room. And we live in constant fear of the inevitable day when the unthinkable will happen, the day we finally run out of time.
Is there a way out of our slavery to time? Is there a way to ease our addiction to the clock? Has anyone heard of a “time-aholics anonymous” organization? Unfortunately we live in a world that is ruled by time. Sunrise follows sunset; four seasons follow one after the other in the same sequence year after year; our bodies grow old and deteriorate. It is impossible in this life to escape the boundaries of time. But rather than bow down to this false god we can place our trust in the One who created time, the One who is Himself timeless, the One who “is the same yesterday and today and forever,” the one “who is, and who was, and who is to come,” the One who has invited us to spend all eternity with Him. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11-14.
Fortunately we worship a God whose timing is always perfect. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” – Romans 5:6. “So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son…” – Galatians 4:3-4. Because God has a perfect track record when it comes to punctuality, we can trust Him to always show up at just the right time, to answer our prayers at just the right time, to give us direction at just the right time, to be our provider at just the right time, to share with us His grace and mercy at just the right time, and to take us home at just the right time. He will never arrive too early nor too late.
His timing is impeccable, even during those times when He keeps us waiting and we are tempted to cry out, “When, Lord?” “When will I ever get that promotion?” “When will I find that perfect job?” “When will I find that perfect mate?” “When will this illness be healed?” “When will this ministry bear fruit?” “When will my prayers be answered?” The answer to every “when” question is always the same: Right on schedule! You see, He is not all that concerned with what we consider to be the right time. He places our spiritual growth above our personal schedules. Preparing us for an eternity with Him is much too important to be rushed and much too treasured to be left up to our own timing.
Rather than worrying over whether God is accommodating Himself to our own time schedule we should be concerned about whether we are accommodating ourselves to His. Are we promptly keeping our appointment with the Lord, spending time every day in God’s Word and in prayer? Are we constantly alert for opportunities to minister and witness to others? Are we continually listening to His voice to know how and when to respond to such opportunities? Have we promptly accepted God’s invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb? “Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when…he spoke through David…‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’” – Hebrews 4:7. “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.” – Romans 13:11-12.
One day soon our Lord will return and the false god of time will be forever vanquished. I have no idea when that will be but we can all rest assured it will happen at just the right time. Our Lord will arrive right on schedule. Until then I recommend we follow the lead of David, the Psalmist, who even in the midst of one of his worse trials, when it seemed like everyone had abandoned him and time was about to run out on his life, was able to proclaim the following: “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands…” – Psalm 31:14-15.
Bill, a child of God, at just the right time