By Melissa Spoelstra
Throughout the pages of Scripture, we see an emphasis on the need for rest. In the very beginning, God spoke the world into creation but then intentionally stopped working. He separated light from darkness; put the sun, moon, and stars in place; and created birds and fish, in addition to all plants and animals.
Then he made man and woman and gave them dominion over all he had made: “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation” (Genesis 2:2-3).
On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being insanely busy), how over-scheduled is your family?
In grade school I used notebook paper that had a thin red vertical line down the page. It was the line where you started writing your spelling words or paragraphs for writing assignments. To the left of that line was the margin. This was the white space where the teacher could make comments or you could make edits to your writing.
In his excellent book on simple living titled Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Richard Swenson defines margin and the lack of it:
Marginless is being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office because you were twenty minutes late getting out of the bank because you were ten minutes late dropping the kids off at school because the car ran out of gas two blocks from the gas station—and you forgot your wallet.
Margin, on the other hand, is having breath left at the top of the staircase, money left at the end of the month, and sanity left at the end of adolescence.
Rest becomes elusive when we fill our lives so full of activity that we take things right to the edge of the page. An over-scheduled life leaves no room for emergencies, errors, or problems. How many of us enjoy lives without sudden difficulties? They are facts of life. Kids get sick, cars won’t start, weather and schedules change. If we’re living without margin, the smallest divergence can throw off our plans and cause us to feel completely overwhelmed. Ever had thoughts like this: “Since they changed soccer practice it conflicts with Susie’s dance—and that is my day to drive to carpool”? Or “Oh no! That car repair just ate up my grocery money! Now what?”
Without margin in our schedules and finances, it doesn’t take much to put us in a state of emergency. I have found myself in a panic when I have taken on too many ministry responsibilities, signed up my children for too many activities, or failed to set boundaries in relationships with needy people. Before I know it my calendar is filled, and I have little room to breathe between the things I must do.
Another downfall of lacking margin is the lost opportunity for spontaneity. If a neighbor needs help, someone is giving away free tickets to a special event, or the kids want us to throw a ball in the back yard, we can’t take the time because our calendar demands we keep rushing so we don’t let someone down.
When we’ve built margin into our lives, we reap many benefits. We get to have an over-the-fence conversation with a neighbor, which leads to an opportunity to share what Jesus is doing in our lives. When the kids want to have a pillow fight, we can let our guard down knowing these days of play with them are numbered.
Above all else, margin helps us learn to rest. As we’ve seen, rest is a concept near God’s heart. He wants us to embrace relaxation and regularly engage in it. In Isaiah 30:15 God reprimands the people of Israel for failing to do this:
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.”
He doesn’t want us to spend all our time hurrying, filling every empty space on the calendar with activity. He says we’ll find strength in quietness. Where does that quietness fit in between everyday tasks such as running errands, going to doctor’s appointments, meal planning, and kids’ team practices and the other things we add to our schedules such as community involvement, committee meetings, church activities, and ministry or service opportunities? In order to experience rest, we need to evaluate the frenetic pace of our lives.
• Why are we filling our calendars?
• Are we asking the Holy Spirit to guide us about what we choose tocommit to with our time?
• What could we cut out to have more time for personal reflection, creativity,and some unhurried family dinners?
I’m tempted by all the good things there are to do. I struggle to start at the red line and leave margin for the unexpected things God wants me to encounter along the way. This year as forms come home from school, volunteer signups are passed around, and people ask for our time, we need Holy Spirit help to know when to say no in order to say yes to margin and God’s rest in our lives.
* * * * *
Melissa Spoelstra is a popular women’s conference speaker, Bible teacher, and writer who is madly in love with Jesus and addicted to the study of His Word. Her passion is helping other women to seek Christ and know Him more intimately through serious Bible study, attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, and a tenacious dependence on God at all times, even through the storms of life. She lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her pastor husband and four kids. Find her on Twitter @melspoelstra and Instagram @daring2hope, and follow her blog at MelissaSpoelstra.com.
Taken from: Total Family Makeover. Copyright © 2016 by Melissa Spoelstra. Published by Abingdon Press.