If I’ve set a clock, you better believe it’s fast. My alarm clock, the analog clock on the wall of Liesel’s and my room, both of my watches, and probably the microwave clock because I got to it first after the last power outage–they’re all about four minutes fast.
It’s anxiety. I feel the need to always be places on time, and I do that best if I think it’s later than it is. Well, actually, that’s not totally true. Sometimes this tendency to have the clocks be fast means that I just arrive places even earlier than I should. I’m not usually late for things. I just set my clocks ahead to ensure that I’ll be on time, even if I thought I was running a couple minutes late.
It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I didn’t start holding other people to this standard, too. I just caught myself looking at my watch. I was waiting for a student to show up to their writing conference. 9:15. Welp, they’re late. They weren’t late, both because the conference was supposed to start by 9:15, and there’s always a little grace that you can be a few minutes late. Also, it wasn’t 9:15 yet. It was 9:11.
I’ve been thinking about grace a lot lately, how showing grace to myself enables me to extend it to others, how the grace God has shown me sets a standard for how to show it to other people.
As in, I don’t expect people to be early to writing conferences, because no one can always live up to that. I don’t expect that everyone sets their watch ahead, partly because that’s not innately virtuous and partly because it’s not realistic for everyone to do that. Or practical.
As in, there’s a line between believing the best of people and expecting them to live up to perfection at all times. This isn’t about people meeting or not meeting my standards; it’s about seeing them as humans with a wide margin for how they will act, having broad expectations, a variety of ways that people can behave.
If they show up at all, that’s something. If they show up on time, what a nice surprise! Early? So nice. Not necessary, but nice.
Does it sound like lowered standards? I hope not. Having grace for people means that I know they have a best behavior but that no one lives up to that consistently. I don’t. You don’t. I might think I’m doing you a favor by saying that you are perfect and never disappoint, but really, I’m setting you up for failure.
I’m not to the point where I can set my clocks to the actual time. I’m not even really to the point where I won’t berate myself for being late, especially in these days where I still don’t have a phone and can’t send an anxious apology text: I’m coming – sorry I’m late! But I might be on track to seeing you as a person who might be on time but might not, and just accepting you when you come.