Caring for Your Soul
By John Braland, President of IMF's Board of Directors
There is a big difference between being lazy and resting. The undercurrent of American culture swims in the belief that if you aren’t busy, you’re lazy. But is this fact or fiction? The truth is we live in a bustling world full of commitments from work to play and if we don’t control our schedule, our schedule will control us. Golda Meir said, “I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.” Jesus was very busy, but he was never in a hurry. The gospels never say “Jesus ran to help Mary” or “Jesus rushed to save the day.” Yet we rush and hurry and basically live our lives in the fast lane. Does this take a toll on us? Absolutely. Living a hurried life drains us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And unless you learn how to refuel, you will run on empty until something changes. The good news is that you can learn to control your schedule and you can learn to refuel.
What is the solution? The solution is to put some margin into your life. Margin is breathing room. Margin is a little reserve that you’re not using up. You’re not stretched to the limit. You’re not going from one meeting to the next with no space in between. Margin is the space between your load and your limits.
Dr. Richard Swenson writes, “The conditions of modern day living devour margin. If you’re homeless we direct you to a shelter. If you’re penniless we offer you food stamps. If you’re breathless we connect you to oxygen. But if you’re marginless we give you one more thing to do. Marginless is being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office because you were twenty minutes late getting out of the hairdresser because you were ten minutes late dropping the children off at school because the car ran out of gas two blocks from a gas station and you forgot your purse. That’s marginless. Margin, on the other hand, is having breath at the top of the stair case, money at the end of the month and sanity left over at the end of adolescence. Marginless is hurry. Margin is calm.”
What happens when I build in a little margin? More peace of mind, better health, stronger relationships, and more availability for loving like Jesus come to mind for sure. The question is: How do we build more margin into our lives?
Here are four key steps that will help you to create more margin in your life so that you won’t feel like you are running on empty all day every day.
1. Learn to accept your limitations. You’ve got to recognize that you have limits and come to the place where you accept them. “I have learned that everything has limits,” writes the Psalmist in Psalm 119:96. We are only human, we are not invincible. We need sleep, food, and emotional rest. We have physical limitations, emotional limitations, time limitations, and mental limitations. God gave us limitations for our own good and he instituted the “Sabbath” so that we would take a day of rest in order to unplug and refuel. So rather than fighting our limits we need to accept them.
2. Learn to be content. People who have margin in their lives have learned to be content with who they are and what they have. Stop comparing your life to everyone else’s life and your stuff with everyone else’s stuff. Learn your rhythms. Until you do that you will always be driven to take on more. You have to stop that constant push to pack your day full of stuff. The Old Testament says in Ecclesiastes 4:6 “It is better to have only a little with peace of mind than be busy all the time.” You need to ask yourself a very frank question. Will having more and doing more make me happier? If you are not happy with what you have today you’re not going to be happy with what you get tomorrow because today you’re not happy with what you were striving for yesterday.
3. Learn to say no a lot more. A lot of us are addicted to the lifestyle of going faster and faster and how important it makes us feel. We have to learn that it’s OK to say no to the unimportant things so that we can say yes to the right things. It’s always easier to fill up your schedule than it is to empty your schedule. There are times when we have to just say no. Put your schedule on a diet and stick to it.
4. Learn to refuel. The fact of life is, the faster you go in life the more margin you need. Take time to rest and refuel. Refuel emotionally with friends, some solitude, or doing a hobby. Refuel spiritually by attending church, reading the Bible, and praying. Refuel physically by getting ample rest, exercising, and eating right, not rushed. Build that margin into your life every day.
The Bible tells us very clearly that if we don't allow space into our schedules - if we just work all the time that it is foolishness. Ecclesiastes 10:15 states, “Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work.”
You don’t have to be busy every moment of every day. Life is a journey not a race. The truth is if we really want to last in life, we need to add margin into our schedules. We need to remember that it’s not how fast we live that’s important. It’s how well we live.