By Renée Langley
The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.
Not many years after my husband and I married, he spent six months doing graduate research in Indonesia. When he returned, he told me about a curious phrase in Bahasa Indonesia, the national language of the country. The phase was “Jam karet.” “Jam” means “time” and “karet” is the sap from the rubber tree. In other words, “Jam karet” means “rubber time”. When the train was delayed, or the event started two hours late, or the short walk turned into a multiple-kilometer hike, Indonesians would smile and say “Jam karet!” My husband is a bit more laid-back than I am, so the phrase seemed to strike a positive chord within him.
Now, this notion of “stretchable time” fits well with my husband’s personality, but not mine. I am a Type A, get-the-task-done-on-time woman. Most of the time, I am thankful for my drive and focus. But every now and then I wonder about my need to have everything run according to my schedule. So I stop to smell the roses, only to mentally note which ones need pruning and other gardening care. I relax with a cup of herbal tea, only to mentally go over which teas we will need to replenish on our next shopping trip. And arrive late for an event? Perish the thought (and the person responsible for making me late!).
The Psalmist understood our all-too-human desire to have everything fit our calendar and chronometer. The writer of Psalm 46 also knew that our preoccupations are not necessarily things upon which God focuses. In Psalm 46:10, we read, “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Sometimes we have to pause in order to better know the Creator.
When life’s circumstances or my husband throw my well-ordered timeframe out of synch, I have two choices. I can rail against the lack of drive and focus of others, or I can pause for “Jam karet.” Sometimes in the midst of a busy life, it can be a blessing to stretch time, if even for just a few moments.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still a Type A personality and always will be. But it is nice to know that in the midst of a purposeful and productive life the occasional slowdown is not always a bad thing. The next time your schedule gets thoroughly off-kilter, remember, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Then laugh and say “Jam karet!”