We are too busy.
How many times have you asked someone how they’re doing and their reply is simply, “Well, I’m busy,” and then they proceed to give you a list of all the things that they’re busy doing. Why is this? It’s because the idea of being busy is currently a badge of honor in our SoCal culture. It’s like if we’re not busy then we’re not accomplishing all that we should be accomplishing. If we’re not busy then something must be wrong with us because we can do more. We are a busy culture and quite frankly this business is not good for us. Business can take us down the road to a breaking point.
I know myself and I know that I can get busy. And when I get too busy things start falling off my plate. I forget appointments, I get frustrated with things that take me away from my busy plans, I drive too fast, I hurt people with my words. I have learned that being busy is not really a badge of honor. There is a better way to live.
What we need is margin.
In his book, Margin, Richard Swenson says, that margin is “the space that once existed between us and our limits. It’s something held in reserve for unanticipated situations.” The truth is that without margin we live in the danger of overloaded lives. You and I aren’t wired to live without margin; we aren’t wired to live near our breaking point, yet too often this we live right up to our breaking point–everyday.
The late Dallas Willard, who authored several books on spiritual disciplines, was once asked to describe Jesus in one word. His answer? Relaxed. I thought that was a strange way to describe Jesus, but as I began to look at the gospels through the lens of that word I began to agree. Jesus’s pace is a far cry from a frantic, hurried life. Jesus was always in control, never seemed to be rushed, he never seemed bothered by interruptions. He wasn’t a workaholic and he often spent time alone in prayer – for hours. Jesus was relaxed and lived with margins.
But… margins are foreign to our cultural norms.
We value progress. Progress, after all, creates advances in technology, education, and affluence but it also devours margin. Progress asks for more in the name of being productive and also paints busyness as something good.
But when we live without margin, much of what suffers is both spiritual and relational. For example on the spiritual side, without margins, interruptions become frustrating roadblocks to our agenda rather than opportunities to see God. When we operate at or near 100% capacity, we have no time for interruptions. No opportunities to see God outside of our pre-decided to-do lists and jam-packed schedules. Yet I have learned (I might add the hard way) that interruptions can be God’s way of getting his priorities into my “busy” schedule.
Your relationships will thank you.
Secondly, without margins, relationships can fall apart. The currency of relationships is love and love is first and foremost patient and kind. Love takes time; it grows slowly. Without margins both our spiritual and relational life suffers.
Let me encourage you to join me in doing fewer things, well. Listen, I’m not against progress and I’m not against being productive. But what I am against is living without margin. Leave open space in your day and week and month to allow God to give you rest or refreshment or to insert his opportunities into your margin filled life.
Finally, if you build this into your life the next time when someone asks how you’re doing you can say, “I’m living with margin and it’s making my life rich and fulfilling.”