Saturday morning in our household is always ‘homework time’, and this weekend was no different as our daughter got busy with her writing work. The class teacher has taught them to draw a margin on each page before starting to write, but sometimes there has been ‘huffing’ from our youngest about why she should bother. This week, in the middle of her comprehension (and proudly using a biro now she’s passed her ‘pen licence’) she suddenly needed more space to fit in something vital that she’d missed. “Oh, that’s what the margin is for!” she exclaimed.
Hearing her little conversation with herself, reminded me of a leadership meeting I’d sat in recently, where one seasoned and wise church leader was reminding others to build margin into their lives. Building margin into our life is about putting enough space between all of our commitments - and the very outer limit of ourselves and our resources. A healthy margin is about drawing and holding a line between the edge of where we live and work - and the actual edge – the edge that we don’t suddenly want to find that we’ve gone over.
“Margin is the space between our load and our limits.” Richard Swenson
Intentionally building in enough margin is necessary so that we don’t burn out or compromise the rest of our lives in the name of ‘busyness’. But living with margin isn’t only about us, it’s also to ensure that those around us don’t suffer when we live beyond our limits.
We can become pretty good at finding strategies that work, and that enable us to maintain our margin and juggle the complexity and demands of life. But in the weeks before Christmas, normal goes out of the window! There will be more demands and expectations placed on you…I have never been so busy as when working in a church office at Christmas.
With the exceptionally pressured season of Christmas lurking around the corner, are YOU intentionally drawing enough margin in your life right now?
It can be tempting to budget to the outer limits of our time and energy, and just add in all the extra. But where life and work in this season require more commitments than you would normally take on, it’s worth considering NOW where else you might do less.
A margin doesn’t have to be a hard line. You can use it for something vital that you need to squeeze in if you really want to. But if that margin has already been drawn then at least when you cross into it, you’re not teetering really close to the edge of your limits and resources.
Intentionally build and draw some margin into your life way before December hits. And as you do that, I pray that you have space to appreciate afresh the true heart of Advent and Christmas. Enjoy that space and rediscover the peace of Emmanuel – God with you – as you enter this season. Use some well-drawn margin to celebrate and rest - without crashing and burning.