Many years ago I read a small book titled “Margin”. Written by an M.D. it had nothing to do with the white spaces around the edges of a sheet of paper. Rather it was about how we live our lives. It obviously moved me, since I still remember it probably 30 years after reading it. There aren’t many books that I can say that about!
The author’s idea was that many people, perhaps most, live without margin; that is without any reserve capacity to do anything other than what we are doing right now. We fill our schedules with errands, and appointments until there’s no time left for the unexpected. We balance our incomes and expenses so closely that an unanticipated bill pushes us over the edge. We stay so busy with work, and family, and social events that if our neighbor needs our help, we probably aren’t even home to hear his request. And if there’s a financial need, or a worthy cause we’d like to support, there’s no money left in the budget for it.
Many people who have lived in another country, especially in the third world, for a length of time and returned to the U.S. comment that the pace of life is so different. There people take time for each other; and the needs of a friend take priority over just about anything, Sticking to a schedule isn’t nearly as important as an impromptu visit from a family member.
I’m convinced that Satan keeps us constantly running in an attempt to distract us from spending time with God. If we’re always late for that next appointment, for that meeting, for that luncheon, then we won’t take time to pray, to read scripture, to just meditate. If we’re constantly rushing about, then we won’t notice that hurting friend, neighbor, or even spouse. We won’t take time to share the love that Jesus so freely shares with us.
That’s what Margin is all about. Reserving a portion of your resources for the unexpected. Be it money, time, talent, compassion; having something of the gifts God gives you to share with others, or to have for that problem that suddenly shows up when you least expect it.
Yes, I used to work for an employer who expected me to be at work every day, and on time too. There were many times that by the end of the day, I didn’t have much left over, no margin. But usually I could find a few minutes to read scripture, or a devotion. And my wife and I lived with an eye toward saving for a rainy day; and could contribute when a need arose.
I wish that I could tell you where to get that little book, I’ve long since forgotten even the name of the author or publisher. But maybe my brief ramblings here have given you insight to start applying the idea of Margin in your life, if you don’t already do so.