Another school year is upon us, along with the chaos that comes from the preparation and first few months. I don’t know about you, folks, but this summer was crazy. And I heard a similar sentiment from many others. Covid-19 seemed to be getting better, and everything, including travel, started opening up. So we traveled 4 times in 4 months, finally had in person VBS again, could finally go to the pool again, held a big garage sale, went through the crazy process of getting my oldest daughter ready for her first year in public schools, etc. It was lots of good things…but I noticed my bible reading and prayer times became inconsistent…and I longed for rest.
Now the new school year has started and with it comes lots of opportunities for new responsibilites…from the homeschool group, to church, to the public school PTA, and more! How do we figure out the best yes and say no to the rest? Balancing margin and rest is always a challenge. Join us as we learn what the Bible says about this important topic!
Jesus was Relaxed
Bayside Church wrote some interesting comments about Jesus:
“Dallas Willard, author of several classics, including The Spirit of the Disciplines and Hearing God, was once asked to describe Jesus in one word. His answer? Relaxed.”
“I’ll be honest, I don’t like that word. Relaxed plays on the same field with lazy, slow and inefficient. But try reading the gospels through this lens, and see what you come up with. I have. And I was haunted by the rhythm of Jesus’ life. He did, in fact, appear quite relaxed. Jesus was always in control, never rushed or reactive. He never seemed bothered by interruptions or distractions. Despite the weight of the world on his shoulders, he wasn’t a workaholic, and he often spent time alone in prayer, for hours.”
God Made Sabbath for Man
The Bible tells us in Mark that Sabbath is a gift made for us; not us for Sabbath. Take advantage of this God-given rest time!
Just like we intentionally schedule work, school, hair appointments, doctor appointments, date nights – we need to intentionally schedule rest times. Something our family does is keep Sundays after church free of most work and commitments. That is normally our Family Rest Day. Your Sabbath or rest time can be any day or times that work for your family. For pastors who work on Sundays, their Sabbath days are often a weekday. Find what works best for your family and make it a priority.
Church Planter, Speaker, and Pastor Davey Blackburn wrote a great article on rest:
“For those of you who are not familiar with the term Sabbath, it is the practice of working 6 days and taking one complete day off to unplug, rest, and retreat. In Genesis 1 and 2 we’re told that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. He certainly didn’t have to rest. He’s all-sufficient and all-sustaining and doesn’t need rest. But He modeled rest for us. I’ve heard it said before that if we all consistently practiced a Sabbath day, we would never need vacation.“
Davey Blackburn goes on to write, “By carving out a Sabbath, what we’re saying to God is this: “I’m going to work hard for six days, steward well what you’ve put in my hand, and trust you with the rest.” It’s us admitting that God is God, we’re not, and He can produce more in six days that we can in all seven. Interestingly enough, for the past several years, Chick-Fil-A has maintained more gross sales per store than any other fast food chain, and they are only open six days. They do better in six days than McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell do in seven.
In both Exodus and Deuteronomy God takes more time talking about the Sabbath than he does any other commandment. If God is taking time to talk about it, it must be important. The Bible calls those who don’t work wicked and lazy – but it calls those who don’t rest disobedient. But more important than warnings against not taking a Sabbath, the Bible outlines so many blessings that follow when we do rest.”
What is Margin?
Margin is the white space in our lives that has no plans or committments. Like the white space on a page where there is no text or pictures – just blank space.
Mark Lenz wrote a helpful article on margin:
“Margin can be defined as the space between our load and our limits. It’s the breathing room we all need in our lives. It’s the buffer between where you are on your rope, and the end of your rope. When a person has margin in their life, they can weather the storm. They can get pushed toward the end of their rope, but still have enough left at the end to hang on. But when a person is at the end of their rope, they have no margin. One little thing can push them past the edge. And they fall. Hard.”
How Do I Leave Margin?
Allow God to help you make the best yes when making commitments. It can be so easy to jump in wherever help is needed, but having too much on our plates hurts every area of our life; our health, all our relationships, work, ministry, etc. We become ineffective, stressed, and more. Every time we say “Yes” to something, we say “No” to other things.
What important things are we missing due to overcommitment? This has definitely happened to me before. I had an opportunity to speak/teach, and could not say yes due to a lack of margin. Several years ago I volunteered in AWANA at our church. I had too many things on my plate and I got to where wednesday nights was this terrible burden for me and I was having chest pains (which I know now were asthma related). My kids still were quite young and I knew we still had several years of AWANA ahead of us but I knew I was so burnt out that the only way I could keep my kids in AWANA was if I stopped volunteering. I finished out my committment for the school year and have not signed back up since. Instead I started attending a discipleship group with a few other ladies and it makes such a difference in my week! Taking time to recharge is critical. We can not keep giving, serving, and filling others up if we are empty.
We are foster parents, and margin is critical for this ministry. This is due to the constant amount of home visits for the foster children, and then visits and meetings with our licensing worker, parent visits, therapy, medical visits, meetings with the guardian ad litem, other random meetings and the constant need to attend trainings, or other items needed to keep up our foster parent license. If we didn’t keep room in our schedule, then the foster child(ren) in our home would suffer and we could lose our foster parent license. We know that God called our family many years ago to foster, and we want to do our best to fulfill that calling.
For about the first 18 months that we had our current foster placement, we really had to limit what we took on. It was a very difficult placement and it took everything we had to not give up. Know your limits and don’t feel bad that you are in a season where you are unavailable and in fact may need others to regularly serve you for a while.
At times when I did leave myself margin, I have been able to take advantage of opportunities. For example, the annual See You At the Pole event (Sept 22) was coming up. And because we had some margin, I was able to help my daughter get that event set up at her first year at a public school. When my foster daughter’s daycare shut down for a month due to covid, I was able to accomodate the change in plans due to margin. When a neighbor had an emergency and needed me to pick her child up from school, I could help her out because of margin.
If things I am doing are not in alignment with where I know I need to focus, then I don’t take that on, or I finish my current commitment and then don’t sign up again next year. It is important to finish your commitments when possible – it can be really unfair to sign up for something and not follow through. It hurts your witness, your relationships, as well as the ministry, project, etc that you were working on.
And even when opportunites come up that are in alignment with your calling, they may be so numerous that you can’t possibly participate in all of them. For example, I know God called me to evangelism. But there are so many ways to pursue evangelism, it is not possible for me to participate in all of them and still maintain a healthy balanced life.
I am definitely not perfect at margin, and have the tendancy to take on a lot. Many of us have the desire to help out. But don’t be afraid to say no, to delegate, or get help. We are all human. Margin is critical for a healthy life and effective ministries.
Check out these books and articles for further reading:
Breathe by Priscilla Shirer
Addicted to Busy by Brady Boyd
The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst
“Drowning in Stress? 5 Promises to Remember” by Cynthia Thomas
“Biblical Self-Care” by Cynthia Thomas
Margin is important! We all are designed for rest. God even rested (Genesis 1,2). Once you know your main callings, focus on those things. Don’t allow busyness to distract you from what God has called you to do. Margin allows you take on opportunities unique to your calling and to take care of your self, as well as your family and friends, etc. We each have finite time in this life. Allow God to guide you on how to spend it!