Margin is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations.
Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.
~ RICHARD SWENSON, Margin
If you feel super-stressed or always out of time, carve out a few hours to read Margin.
It won’t work miracles (I still don’t think I have enough time), but it will help.
The Problem: Pain
Swenson begins with our pain. He makes a compelling case that even progress (the great promised liberator!) has stolen our margin instead of adding to it.
We must now deal with more “things per person” than at any other time in history.
Yet one can comfortably handle only so many details in his or her life.
As humans, we have limits—physical, mental, emotional, financial. And left unguarded, we leave our linear limits for exponentially sloped lives, to our own demise.
It is God the Creator who made limits, and it is the same God who placed them within us for our protection. We exceed them at our peril.
When we live on overload, much suffers, including our relationships: with self, others, and God.
For each person suffering from a mental or emotional disorder, the lives of at least three other persons are significantly affected.
The Prescription: Margin
Unlike overload, margin doesn’t just happen. We have to intentionally build it into as many areas of our lives as we can: emotionally, physically, with time, with finances, etc.
The poor envy the rich, while the rich envy the richer.
We have to understand that “fallow times are just as important as productive times.” We have to make conscious, daily choices that honor God in our bodies, our activities, our money, our relationships.
If we [are able to say no], not out of self-serving laziness but for God-honoring balance and health, then this level of control will not only protect our emotional margin but will actually increase it.
The Prognosis: Health
I am not aware of a single person who takes seriously these words of Paul at their deepest level: “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Swenson gives specific advice to regain health through “counter-habits” of contentment and simplicity and balance and rest.
- Instead of getting, try giving.
- Instead of replacing, try preserving.
- Instead of feeling covetous, try feeling grateful.
- Instead of feeling inferior before men, try feeling accepted before God.
- Instead of being ruled by feelings, try enjoying the freedom of contentment.
But still. It’s difficult.
I’ve lived an overloaded summer—with good things—but with very little margin. And now I hope to put on the brakes a little.
We do not love God, then spouse, then children, then self, then church.
We love God, spouse, children, self, and church all at the same time.
Similarly, we do not love God 100 percent, spouse 95 percent, children 90 percent, church 80 percent.
God's standard requires that we love all of them all of the time.
In the end, I know it comes down to faith:
How much do I trust God with allocating the resources he’s given me?
Am I ready to trust him with a hefty serving of margin?
Can I let go of overload?
* * *
Do you build margin into your days?