Earlier this month, I posted “Culture and Christian Spirituality (1)” based on the book Living Mission Interculturally: Faith, Culture, and the Renewal of Praxis (2015) by Professor of Theology and Culture Anthony J. Gittins, CSSp. In Chapter 5, Gittins focuses on four major cultural variables that shape our faith and spirituality: 1) social location and social geography, 2) embodiment or body tolerance, 3) health and sickness, and 4) time and space. Each variable is addressed in a series of 7 to 12 questions. In the earlier post, I addressed the first variable. While I answered Gittins’ questions about the second and third variables in my journal, my responses are too personal to post on a blog. So I will skip to the fourth cultural variable – time and space.
Fourth Cultural Variable: Time and Space
Like so many people I know, time is a commodity to be saved, spent, wasted, or lost. I value being “on time” and am sometimes impatient when others are not. Having said that, I have learned through experience what time means in Southern Africa and in Latin America. Africans and Latinos value the arrival of a person for himself or herself, no matter what the clock says. You will then have their full attention and care.
What used to bother me, and sometimes still does, is the attitude that my time is not seen as important as the time of others. I found it annoying that a supervisor would write emails and make phone calls while I was sitting in a meeting with her, when I thought I could have been using my time more productively. I came to understand the reasons from her perspective and realized that sitting with my supervisor was a necessary part of my job, for which I was well compensated.
I try to “make time” for what’s important. In fact, one of my annual resolutions this year is to “make space for what matters”, that is, time and space for my church, my family, my friends and neighbors, and colleagues in Latin America. I also try to make time for reflection and prayers on my lanai. I make time for communal worship, but perhaps out of duty, rather than truly wanting to to be there.
I sometimes wish I were somewhere else doing something else – far from what I’m currently doing. I love my home in Sarasota and I love my work at church. However, in the springtime, I get restless. I want to be teaching and writing at a prestigious university. I long to be a part of an academic community. If I could “turn the clock back”, I might go to MIT or Harvard for my undergraduate studies. Yet, I have no regrets. I really don’t want to change my past. Would I rather be younger? Of course, but only if I could know what I now know about what really matters.
I am a private person for the most part. I like my own living space, my own office at work, time to myself most of the day. I don’t want to share my space with pets; even plants struggle to survive in my living spaces! I like prayer and reflection to be private and quiet, but I like liturgy to be creative, lively, and public.
I am not claustrophobic, but I don’t like being in large crowds. If I am required to be with a crowd, I move to the edges. Now that I think of it, even at church, I sit in the first row in a side section, because no one else is there. I like aisle seats on airplanes. I keep a distance when people are talking to me. I don’t say much when I’m with more than three people, unless I am hosting the group or teaching (when I would naturally be the center of attention).
These reflections on how I use my time and space have made me more aware that not everyone shares my perspective nor my sometimes compulsive behaviors. Yet, in a community that worships together, there needs to be space for everyone. I am reminded now of the familiar words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 that begins
There is an appointed time for everything,
And a time for every affair under the heavens. (v.1)