Respect the Margin

For generations, teachers have told students to “stay inside the margin” of their lined paper. Have you ever wondered why? Why not take advantage and use up all that space on the sides as you write?

pencilA writer gave this response when asked about margins on paper. “If I’m writing, where I or someone else will be going over and making notes or editing, not only do I respect the margins, but I even give them a little breathing room. However, when I’m taking notes in a meeting, scribbling to-do lists, or writing something that no one else will likely see I use the margins as extra columns. Words are packed and scattered across the page as if I were creating movie props for a lunatic’s manifesto.” So empty margins allow for breathing room and full margins create…lunacy? It’s an interesting point to consider.

What about your life? Do you have space to breathe or do you feel more like your life is in chaos? Do you have margin?

Everyone needs margin – the plaMargin_Decisionsce between our priorities and our overload. Margin is the space available between what is truly necessary and what is actually possible. Richard A. Swenson, M.D. said in his book Margin, “When we are overloaded, and many of us are, there is pain, not peace. Most of our lives contain more overload than margin.” We live in a time where innovation and technology should make things simpler for us. Progress, which was designed to make our lives easier and give us more time, instead has increased our stress and decreased our margin. We experience overload in so many areas – the choices made in a given day, our activities, the rate at which things change, the things we commit to doing, debt, expectations placed on us, information and media, noise and people, technology, traffic, possessions and work. It’s exhausting just listing these things!

So how do we create margin in our lives? First, we need to be in relationship with God. We can ask Him to give us wisdom to know what we need to focus on and what it is we need to let go. Spending one-on-one time with God, reading the Bible and praying for guidance are ways that we can learn what choices are wise for ourselves and for our family. Second, we need to be intentional about the decisions we make. We shouldn’t live with the idea that adding just one more thing to our schedule won’t hurt us. We need to prioritize the activities we choose to participate in, where we spend our money, what we think about. What is most important to you? Finally, we need to evaluate our schedules. Do we control our schedule or does our schedule control us?

1206462482_20d3d4b7a6_oMargin allows you to spend time with God in His word, in prayer, in quiet. Margin gives you the ability to make more clear and appropriate decisions for you and your family. Margin allows time for you to respond to the unplanned opportunities God brings along without feeling guilty or overwhelmed. And when you feel “overload” creeping in, remember this verse: Matthew 11:28-29, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your soul.” Trust in God, know that He has it all planned out and respect the margin.

This blog post is an adaptation from an EMOMS talk given by Tammy Shondelmyer, 8th Grade Language Arts Teacher.