If I’m being totally honest, I feel like the last person on the planet who should be writing on the subject of margin. For most of my life, I’ve done a terrible job of creating margin in my life. I’ve only started learning recently. But, then again, maybe that makes me qualified to share with you what God has been teaching me.
Maybe you can relate to some of my issues with margin:
- I would find myself thinking that those who needed time to rest, take naps, or care for themselves in some way were weak, lazy and less spiritual than others (namely, me).
- I would generally underestimate the amount of time it was going to take me to do a task. For example, I would think I could make a quick Costco run and still make it to my appointment on time, when we all know there is no such thing as a “quick” trip to Costco (I mean, it’s a warehouse).
- I often found myself feeling like I was behind schedule and out of time before I got out of bed. My commitments and my task list were unrealistic for one day.
Up until a few years ago, there was very little room in my life for margin because, the way I saw it, I had more important things to do. There were way too many pressing needs in the world for me to take time trying to care for my own needs.
But then, I started to see how my lack of margin was impacting my husband, my kids, and even limiting my ability from hearing Jesus.
Have you ever felt so tired, so burned out, so margin-less, that you found yourself snapping at your children when they didn’t deserve it? Or ignoring your husband? Or just numb to the voice of Jesus in your life? My guess would be more of us have experienced this than want to admit it.
Then, my dear friend and mentor, Alicia Chloe, invited me to read a book called Margin by Dr. Richard Swenson, and things started to change. According to Dr. Swenson, “margin” wasn’t for lazy people or weak people, it was actually a reserve of energy built into our lives that we were to save up for crisis, the unexpected and the “extra mile.” When I thought about it this way, I realized I wasn’t being “super spiritual” by ignoring margin. I was being irresponsible.
So I began to implement some aspects of margin into my life.
It wasn’t easy. I think one of the hardest things for me was learning to deal with my limits. Building margin into my life meant admitting that I had limits, which confronted my pride. Another important realization I had was that every time I said “yes” to one thing, it meant I was saying “no” to another. Most often I found I was (without meaning to) saying “no” to my husband, my kids, and Jesus.
I had to learn to say “no” to other things instead; and I had to teach myself not to feel guilty about it.
These days I don’t have it all worked out, that’s for sure. But I’m getting better. I’m learning to abandon my guilt for having limits, for needing to say no, for admitting I can’t do everything, can’t save everyone. I’m learning to believe that margin isn’t laziness. It’s actually stewardship.
And I’m learning to put my new ideas about margin into practice.
What about you? Do you have enough margin in your life?