Due to the delivery of a friend’s first grandchild, a third grade classroom at Front Range Christian School has been my hub of service for the last two weeks. The classroom represents a unique mixture of little souls each with individual approaches to communication, learning, and community. Interestingly, during several writing assignments, a surprising phenomenon occurred. The margin on the lined paper posed a problem.
Some students avoided the margin lines like the plague, keeping the contents of their writing to the center of the page. Others ignored the margin completely and wrote right through it. This caused me to pause, as I just finished reading Margin by Richard A. Swenson, but also because of God’s recent promptings to lean into more “space” in my day for Him and others.
Whether avoided, ignored or embraced margin impacts our daily lives.
I remember when Sammy and Sophie were young; I found my lack of margin profoundly impact their attitudes and approach to life. Many days, I rushed them out the door to tie their shoes, get in the car, and race to school. God grabbed my heart, showing me I needed to intentionally make space for tying, retying, and tying again, because sometimes sneakers have uncooperative laces. This rushed living interfered with loving Sammy and Sophie well.
While repairing roads, signs often appear indicating, “No right shoulder ahead.” This reminds motorists, to watch their lane and stay between the lines, as margin alongside the motorway will soon disappear. Margin provides safety. Margins in Microsoft Word provide neat boundaries along the perimeter of the page, allowing the eyes to follow the written word easily.
If margin is so good, why do we dash from home to school, to work, to church, to grocery shopping, to sporting activities, to fast food, to household chores, to errand running, etc., only to fall into bed wondering where the day went?
Jesus demonstrated margin by spending time with others, living an unhurried life.
He touched the marginalized, offering dignity and respect to the different, sick, and forgotten (see Luke 4:12-26, Mark 5:21-43). He got up early to be with the Father, to make space to listen and love; an important rhythm in His life (see Mark 1:35). Even still, one of Jesus’ most poignant parables, The Good Samaritan, illustrates the necessity of margin in life in order to care for others well (see Luke 10:25-37).
Why is it that today’s world squeezes margin into vapor and we don’t miss its absence until we collapse exhausted emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually? Is running from one demand to the next really living? What do we miss when we delete margin from our days, months, and years?
I’ve been contemplating ways to incorporate more margin in my life. It’s tough as it is counterintuitive in today’s culture. My husband, Gary, has found that rising early to be with the Father gets easier over time. Watching Jesus points the way. To make having space the norm, rather than the exception, something less important needs to be removed in order to make room for margin’s presence.
I must say “No” in order to say “Yes.”
Maybe it is getting up or going to bed 15 minutes earlier? Perhaps it is disciplining myself to not “squeeze” just one more thing in before leaving the house, like laundry, the dishes, or cleaning? How about closing the computer or shutting down the phone in the evening; letting emails, news and social media wait until tomorrow? What about actually arriving to an appointment ten minutes early to gather my thoughts and pray? Could it be leaving with enough drive time, so that I am able to drive the speed limit without the temptation to speed? Cultivating margin into our lives requires awareness of our limitations and the priorities God sets before us.
What are the limits within which you live? God created each of us with them, so let’s recognize and embrace them. What priorities engage your unique gifts, abilities and passions for God? Are there practices in your life you need to remove in order to live with margin? I am learning the beauty of living with this intentional practice; it is actually freeing and life-giving. Incredibly, God seems to multiply my time when I choose to live with more “space” in my day.
Follow Jesus’ example with me. Don’t let rushed living rob you of loving God and others well.
Create space in your day to visit with your neighbor, travel unhurried, cook a healthy meal, enjoy a leisurely walk, rest adequately, chat with the grocery store clerk, fully listen to family members share about their day, and most of all to remain still with God to listen, learn and love. Move yourself under the spigot of God and let Him fill you with margin to live life to the full (see John 10:10).
Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.
“After he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone…” Matthew 14:22-23
“Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came he called his disciples and chose twelve of them.” Luke 6:12-13
“So he came to a Samaritan city…Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” … Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!… John 4:1-42
Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Check out these suggested readings.
Swenson, Richard A. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. Colorado Springs, CO, 2004
Watson, Thomas. The Art of Divine Contentment. Grand Rapids, MI, 2001