It strikes me today how little our culture values margin. And how much we need it. There is value in knowing how to work hard, but also value in knowing how to rest. It seems too many of us are good at only one or the other, or neither.
My morning was a productive one. My family was going on a weekend trip, so we had to prepare meals ahead of time for a couple days. With a large family, that’s no small feat. My sisters and I made 10 loaves of bread, 8 dozen muffins, 5 dozen tortillas (that turned into burritos), 3 dozen eggs worth of egg salad, and also fed everyone pancakes for breakfast and stir-fry and rice for lunch.
I love working with my sisters, serving my family, and keeping very busy. It was a whirlwind of activity and we all bustled around till they drove away mid-afternoon. And then all was quiet. I got to stay home because of other responsibilities I had later on that weekend, which meant an evening all to myself. A rare treat.
I’ve spent it outside, spending extra time in Scripture, praying, journaling, reading, enjoying the sunshine and the sound of the birds and the sprinklers. And now I’m writing this.
Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you just how Type A I am. How much I love helping everywhere, saying yes, keeping a full schedule, being involved in everything, and working hard. My planner keeps me sane, and my to-do lists typically overflow into sticky note reminders everywhere. I value efficiency and excellence and productivity. I thrive on deadlines and pressure and high expectations.
But I have also learned that I cannot operate that way all the time. Sure, I can work 10-12 hour days. But not 6 days a week. Not well, at any rate. I may not need a lot of sleep, but I do need some. And therein lies the lesson of margin. Not always a long evening like this one. But always there must be some.
I cannot serve well if I am not taking time to rest and reset. I cannot pour out if I am not being filled. I cannot maintain my passion if I have to be “on” constantly. And, perhaps, Type A gals who are tempted to busyness as I am, neither can you.
Margin is needed in many ways. I suspect we all need time to just sit and be quiet sometimes. Even those of us who are extroverts also benefit from time alone on occasion. Spending time in God’s creation is probably much more of a “must” than we are willing to acknowledge. Sabbath has a purpose most of us don’t really understand.
But, for today, I will focus on just one aspect of margin. Margin that allows us time in God’s Word.
There will always be excuses for why “this season” means that we cannot take the time we need to be in God’s Word. Whether it’s school, or work, or children, or _____. My friends who are in college struggle. My single friends struggle. My young mommy friends struggle. My older mommy friends struggle. My retired friends struggle. To my dismay, even the elderly saints that I thought would surely have figured this out by now, still struggle.
Always there will be things to keep us busy, to creep into the margins, to make us think that “later” we will be able to get better at this. That surely “God understands why I just don’t have the time for Him I wish I did”.
I get it. Our culture values productivity and the church isn’t much better at it. Particularly for busy moms, the church is all too ready to affirm the lie that “it’s okay if you just don’t have much time to be in the Word these days”.
But, oh, sisters, we need Him. Desperately. And if you are in a hard season of life that asks much of you, how could you possibly need Him less? Sure, “quiet time” will probably not look like the idyllic uninterrupted hour with Bible and journal and coffee. There is no rule in the Bible saying that it must look like that.
There are, however, many passages in the Bible that speak to our need for Him. That exhort us to pursue godliness, to abide in Him, to yearn for Him, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to seek Him first, to know Him, to stay our minds upon Him, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, to know sound doctrine, to meditate on His law, to run the race well, to place our hope in God, to set our minds on things that are above.
And there is just no way that we can do that if all we get is a verse here and there. Don’t tell me that your Bible app that sends you one verse a day is possibly enough. You can’t go days without actually sitting down and being still and knowing that He is God, gazing upon Him and filling your mind with truth and letting right thinking fuel right feeling and the right actions.
Maybe it means you get up a few minutes earlier, or you read the Bible on your lunch break, or you pray in the middle of the night while you’re rocking your baby. Maybe it means you tape verses to your bathroom mirror or you play an audio Bible in the background. Maybe it means you have an accountability partner. Maybe it means you find a babysitter, or you take one less class, or you don’t get an extra job, or you don’t volunteer for one more thing.
But whatever you have to do to fit in that margin, do it. Please, don’t starve yourself. Christ is your lifeline. His Word is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and sister, without it you will not be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.
By all means, do the good works. But don’t try to do it in your own strength. Acknowledge your need for Him. And then prioritize Him. If He is Lord of your life, you dare not keep Him from being Lord of your schedule. If you are too busy to spend time with Him, then sister, you are too busy. He gives us margin as a gift. When we put Him first, everything else will fall into place.
We become what we behold. So we must ask ourselves, what are we beholding? What does our mind turn to in quiet moments? Where is our focus? Are we believing truth or lies? Is it Scripture that plays through the soundtrack of our minds, or fears and worries?
I’m preaching to myself here too, by the way. This doesn’t come easy to me. I don’t like sitting still, truly don’t. Margin is so hard for me that even in my graphic design work, I am always being told to add more white space, because my approach to life is that “more is better” (ie. more words, more pictures, more events, more plans, more colors, etc). And I know that seasons to come may only make it more challenging to do margin well.
But the more I press into Him and spend time with Him and know Him, the more I am convicted of my absolute dependance upon Him. I need Him desperately. And He has given me a hunger and thirst for Him that is both fully satisfied and never ending. I crave more and more of Him.
Changing seasons will not change my need for Him. Nor will they yours.
So do what it takes. Look up, sweet sister. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed. Let your failures in this area drive you only closer to Him, only more convinced of your need for Him, and do not let Satan distract you or discourage you or defeat you. Pursue and know Christ. Nothing else really matters.
Blessings on you as you behold Him!