“Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Today we use margin just to get by.”
From Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Dr. Richard A. Swenson.
I don’t know if Dr. Swenson originated the use of the term margin in reference to life, but it provides a perfect picture of a life that has space.
People without margin end up becoming the walking wounded. With no space for relaxation, reflection, refreshment, or rest, their spirits begin to disease, but they have no time to be healed. Often, they don’t even recognize the problem. They only know they are suffering and not at their best for the people around them.
If we receive life-giving nourishment from Jesus (John 15:1-5), it is imperative to create margin for that relationship. We must have time to feed on him.
If we want our lives to have real purpose, we cannot let the culture dictate our schedules. If our children take every class and play every sport, there is little time for relationship and even unstructured fun as a family. If we work the hours that everyone else does, we may forfeit what is truly important. If we try to please people, we cannot do what God wants.
Consider these questions:
In a normal week—
- how much time do you carve out for God?
- how much time do you rest and relax?
- how much space do your kids have for unstructured interaction with you and just plain fun?
- how much of what you normally do leads to things which are eternal—such as the influence you exert on others?
- how much time do you focus on your spouse without being distracted by kids or technology?
- and how much space have you left open, knowing there will be unexpected interruptions in life?
If these questions lead you to the realization that you lack margin, step back and determine what needs to go. What has crowded your life so there is no breathing room? Where can you start today? It may take a while to fulfill those responsibilities, but work toward that and let people know that your time will be up at the end of your commitment. Give up what is unimportant and temporal for greater things.
And breathe and enjoy the space, the margin!