When we touched down in Costa Rica towards the end of July, one of the first things we learned about was something referred to as Tico Time. Now, in The States we call it something else…being late. But, in Costa Rican culture it is something very different. And yes, it also means being late, but… it’s different.
Just to give you a quick background, native Costa Ricans are also called Ticos (men) or Ticas (women). Sometimes Spanish speakers add the suffix -ito or -ita to the end of words to indicate that something is small or showing affection for something. As in the use of the phrase un momentito, meaning that it will be just a small moment. Or like while we stayed in Guatemala, I would call our host mi abuelita or loosely… my sweet little granny. She was very short, standing about a whole 4’ 10’’, but it was more about showing her affection for the caring way she treated us. Whenever I called her mi abuelita she would always smile, coo shyly, and mumble something in Spanish that I could never hear or understand. Maybe she was actually cursing me sweetly under her breath and throwing daggers at me with her kind eyes, but I kinda doubt it.
Costa Ricans became known as Ticos or Ticas because, instead of using -ito or -ita, they would use -tico or -tica as the suffix. Over time, the neighboring countries started referring to them, derogatorily, as Ticos and Ticas. However, they took on the name pridefully and now refer to themselves as Ticos.
So the idea behind Tico time is that Costa Ricans are extremely relational and the relationship in front of them is extremely important. So, if what they are doing at present is important relationally, then whatever is upcoming gets pushed back. It’s all about honoring the relationship that is right in front of them, even if it causes them to be late for something else. Everybody understands it and allows for it in their schedule.
Our blog has been on Tico Time since we got into Costa Rica. And the reason is because we have been extremely intentional about being present with the relationships that are in front of us. In that effort, our blogging and writing has suffered but our hearts have not. They are full! Sharing experiences with new friends. Investing time into placing ourselves in potentially uncomfortable situations. Fumbling through our broken Spanish to connect with people from a different culture. Just being present and available and willing to look a little awkward turned into having what seems like small parties almost every night where we eat and laugh (loudly) with our Costa Rican mama and our new family and the neighbors who have become friends. We were welcomed with open hearts, arms, and mouths (we ate SO good!) in this community.
We from the States could take a cue from these wonderful people about investing in the relationships that are right in front of us. Our culture is not so much this way. Most of the time we’ll sacrifice connecting with the person in front of us for a glimpse at our social media-selves. You’ll find pockets, but those pockets are difficult to find. So here are a few of my thoughts on it.
Being intentional about pursuing meaningful relationships will cost you. It is difficult work.
Here’s what it will cost you:
Your Comfort – Your ability to manage or adapt to experiences that are uncomfortable will allow you to explore breathtaking places. And I’m not solely speaking in terms of mountaintops and far away adventure. This ability will allow us to explore the great depths spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally. I don’t think that it is any coincidence that Jesus points back to these facets of life in how we are to love God and each other. But exploring the depths of these facets of life can be truly uncomfortable and painful. And, at times, just downright dangerous.
We spent a week on a little detour trip to Bocas del Toro, Panama recently where the ocean and aquatic life are on beautiful display. For four of those days we were in the water snorkeling, even at night to swim with bioluminescent plankton! That was a trip getting into the water when everything was pitch black around you. And, for my first time ever, I went diving with Noah and Micah. It was truly amazing in every sense of that word and has been quite life altering to dip my head under the sea and see another world with my own eyes. Not through the lens of someone else. I’ve done a little snorkeling in the past but this was something totally different. It was pretty unreal!
Here’s the thing- when you stay on the surface, it’s awesome, it really is, but after a while everything starts to look the same. For the real reward, you breath deep and dive. As you do this, though, the pressure builds up the deeper you go and if you don’t equalize your ears on the way down, it feels like your eyes are going to pop out of your head, your eardrums will burst and the whole ocean is just going to flood through your brain. OK, maybe not the whole ocean, but you get the idea. It can be really uncomfortable and dangerous. But if you’re willing to adapt and manage the feeling of being uncomfortable, you can be rewarded with some stunning and absolutely otherworldly views.
We left the comfort of shallow waters and headed to the deeper places.
It was there, in the deep, we were rewarded with seeing giant stingrays, a Nurse Shark, Spiny Lobsters, and so many other vibrantly colored creatures that it was a little mind-blowing. (Check out our Instagram feed to see the short video of the dive)
So here is what I want to encourage you to do. I want to challenge you to leave the comfort and safety of the shallows in your life and head for deeper waters physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. Challenge yourself to do things that you don’t think you can do, to love people in ways you don’t think you can, to embark on living a life that makes you feel a little uncomfortable and a little unsafe. I’m not totally sure that we’re supposed to live “safe” lives anyway. To a certain limit, sure…wear your seatbelt (unless you’re in a third world country and you don’t have one), chew your food before you swallow, don’t try to pet wild lions at dusk while dressed as an impala, blah blah blah.
I have a sneaky suspicion, though, that God enjoys watching us fumble along in stretching our limits of faith in him. Not that we are cavalier with our lives or pursue risks out of self-absorbed pride, but that we are willing to put our lives on the line to reach out for the good, the right, and the true. I have a long way to go in this fumbling toward this kind of faith too, so we can do it together. I can’t promise that you will be safe or that you will even make it out alive. But what I can promise is that it will be thrilling, you’ll grow through it, and most likely you’ll be in the front seat for something spectacular.
If you find this post has been valuable to you would you mind sharing it with someone? And comment below…let us hear what deep waters you are inspired to swim in.