I hate being late. I don't even like being "on time." I prefer to have a cushion, arriving for an appointment or an event in plenty of time to give me some margin.
When I am late, everything changes. Especially my mood. It becomes rotten, and it will likely not only spoil MY evening, but perhaps yours, if we cross paths. So, I avoid being late at all costs. I'd much prefer to get there early than to make my problem yours.
I would wager that most (not all) people feel the same way. Being late compromises their "plan." Hurry will do that. When we hurry, we skip over things that deserve more of our time, and we make everything - and everyone - miserable in our wake.
Let's apply this in the church world for a moment. I am fortunate to be on staff at a church that really has a lot going for it. We have energy, life, vitality. And, because of that, space has now become an issue. That being said, parking spaces and seats are now in short supply.
So, if you are me, and you don't like being late, and you don't like fighting for a parking spot or for a seat, I have some choices to make. I can either show up really early - say, 30 minutes before the services begin, and ensure that I get a seat and a parking spot. Or, I can just jump into the sea and let the waves carry me wherever they want to take me.
Our church services begin at 9:30 and 11 a.m. If I choose to show up at church any time after 9:25 a.m. for the 9:30 service, I am in trouble. Likewise, if I show up after 10:50 a.m. or so. Keep in mind that if I arrive 10 minutes early, I still have to find a parking space, walk to the building, take my kids to their classrooms, then find a seat in the auditorium. Can I do all that in 5 minutes? No way. Could I do it in 10 minutes? Maybe, but I'd still be rushed, which will put me in a bad mood. SO, my best bet is to arrive at least 20 minutes early and be certain that I can get it all done with a few minutes to spare.
It still surprises me that we have cars drive up 15 and 20 minutes after the service begins. I'm glad they are there, but many of these people expect to find a parking spot close to the building and a seat in the worship center at this time, and they are upset when there's not.
Further, it's just plain rude. Imagine if you had an important meeting at work that began at 10:00 a.m. Everyone is there except one person, who arrives 20 minutes late. What happens when that person walks in? There's a distraction. The person delivering the message is distracted, and may lose focus. The other employees are distracted, and some may have to move so this person can find a seat closer to the door, so they don't have to crawl over people.
Does this sound familiar?
Obviously, there are times when we cannot avoid being late. But, when you are always late, you have a problem. And, your problem doesn't just affect you. It affects your entire family, your co-workers, your fellow church congregants, drivers around you on the road - everyone in your wake.
Do yourself a favor. Leave ten minutes earlier than you think you need to leave. You'll be glad you did. And, I will too!