Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bringing Back Margin

Why is it that the most common response to "How are you?" is "Busy!" We've overscheduled our days and nights until our Blackberries become Crackberries and our lives resemble a kind of slavery--slavery to our overcrowded lives. And in all of this, most of us feel good about our busyness. Spiritual, even. Until we consider the example of Jesus himself.

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (NIV, Luke 5:16) He prayed. Easily one of the most seemingly inefficient, unproductive things a person could do. And also the one thing that "availeth much." We see Jesus wandering away to mountaintops to pray over and over again. It was his prayer life that fueled his ministry life. The two were inseparable.

For me, a life with margin has not come easy. As a Type A, it took physical and emotional limitations to slow me down to live within my limits. Even then, I didn't always cultivate the spiritual practices that lead to life and the blessing of God. I'm still discovering what it means to rest--but I can tell you this--I love to sit with my Savior.

Meanwhile, our world accelerates at breakneck speed. Technology outpaces our ability to learn it; we overload our children with activities, imposing profound stress on 10-year-olds, and many work more than they ever have, to earn more, so they can own more. Which enslaves us to our things.

Can you imagine Jesus doing any of this? Can you imagine him approving of it?

Margin author Richard Swenson describes our current state of affairs:
"We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and 
permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love. Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions. Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn't He lead people beside the still waters anymore? Who plundered those wide-open spaces of the past, and how can we get them back?"
-Margin: Restoring, Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson, MD

The message of this book is "Do less." The hope of the book is that by evaluating our patterns we can live the abundant life Jesus called us to by saying no to many things so we can say yes to a few--the most important ones.

If you read one book this year, I'd recommend this one. It is possible to live our lives according to the Spirit of Christ. The advancement of the Kingdom of God depends on it.

Your turn. Do you struggle with margin? What does margin restore to our lives? What does it mean for God's Kingdom?


  1. I absolutely agree. This has troubled me for a long time. I'm not a Type A person, but I have friends who just can't (or won't) rest so I wrote an ODB about it.

  2. Good stuff. I especially appreciated these two lines from your devo:

    -Not only has He released us from slavery to sin but also from the bondage of having to prove our worth.

    -Our value is not measured by what we do for God but by what He has done in us.

    I'm seriously considering ordering the workbook that goes with the Margin book and offering to teach a 12-week class at our church.