Friday, July 15, 2011

It Takes Time to Grow

Baobob Tree
One of my personal challenges in coming to Africa is working with "Africa time."  I am not referring to the change in timezone but an actual change in mentality.  I am learning that most approaches to life in Africa are different than ours.  When you try to get something done, it takes two or three times longer than you would normally expect.  There seem to be so many factors working counter-productively:  traffic, slow internet, electricity.  I realize I am wearing my "western eyes."
I am not trying to be critical. Many of the ways of doing things are great and many also seem better and perhaps are more godly or more founded in scripture, i.e. practicing genuine hospitality or the value of family.  But when it comes to managing time and while there is beauty in the slow pace life, for a westerner such as myself, it can also become frustrating.
I was just noticing last week how slowly two women were walking down a path. Their pace was so slow that they were almost unnoticeable.  I was thinking how special it was that they were enjoying each other and their conversation.  They were not in a hurry to get anywhere.  Perhaps I am always too much in a hurry.  I have long legs and my children do let me know when my walking pace is too fast.  Somewhere along, I decided that getting from point A to point B fast and in a straight line is the best way.
The time issue becomes most frustrating for me in a group setting such as a meeting.  I am used to working with a clear  deadline and feeling the effects of being late.  People do set goals here and work with time-frames but not in the same manner. There are times when it seems like people are deciding to decide.  It seems like making a decision or goal setting is not often a personal thing, it is done together. 
When I feel myself getting frustrated or impatient, I often get the mental picture of the scene with the tree Ents in the movie "The Lord of the Rings."  Merry and Pippin are wondering why Treebeard and the other Ents are taking so long to decide if they should go to war.  Here is the conversation:
Treebeard: We have just agreed...
[Merry and Pippin lean in]
Merry: Yes?
Treebeard: I have told your names to the Entmoot, and we have agreed you are not orcs.
Pippin: Well, that's good news.
Treebeard: You must understand, young Hobbit, it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.
Merry: It's been going for hours.
Pippin: They must have decided something by now.
Treebeard: Decided? No, we have just finished saying "Good Morning".
Merry: But it's night time already! You can't take forever!
Treebeard: Now, don't be hasty, master Merriadoc.
Merry: We're running out of time!
"Deciding what to do does not take Ents so long as going over all the facts and events that they have to make up their minds about. Still, it is no use denying, we shall be here a long time yet."
I can relate. Sometimes I feel like "we're running out of time!"
Maybe I am in too much of a hurry.
My Ligonier devotional for the last week has been focusing on time with titles such as:  "Using Your Time Productively", " Redeeming Your Time", "Beating the Clock".  So I definitely have a 'time' theme going through my life. I believe it is something that the LORD wants me to consider.  At this point it is my issue to work through and learn.  I am not expecting to change anyone but myself.  I am leaning in to listen to what God is saying. 
From what people are telling me, my feelings are normal and with time I will get used to it.  Perhaps I could learn from the the Ents and the huge old Baobob trees we find here. It takes time to grow.