Church Blogs

Got a Blank Space?
February 11, 2016 @ 2:03 PM by: Jennifer Frank

by Pastor Abby Davidson

I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.'                         ~ Job 3:26


To have margins is to have space and time in your day that is unoccupied and unscheduled. In his book Margin, Dr. Swenson describes margin like this:

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating... As a result, many people commit to a 120 percent life and wonder why the burden feels so heavy. It is rare to see a life prescheduled to only 80 percent, leaving a margin for responding to the unexpected that God sends our way.


We all need margins in our lives. We need to leave space for leisure and rest and family and God and health. When we don’t have margins we end up stressed, tired and putting our relationships and our health at risk.


I had never thought of having margins as a spiritual discipline until reading “The Good and Beautiful God” by James Bryan Smith. It was however, something I had put into practice a few years back.


My first year in seminary I was working full-time and decided to take a full course load as well. A few months into my schooling I found a church to attend and starting volunteering on the worship team and running a weekly kids program for the ESL class. Being somewhat of an overachiever, I wanted to do everything and I really believed that I could do everything well. My schedule left very little time for rest but as my dad always said You can rest when you’re dead.


I lasted about one year like this and then one day I broke. I was coming off a high-stress time at work when I noticed that I was feeling anxious all the time. In addition to that, my body was feeling worn and I couldn’t keep any food down. I thought maybe I had a bug and waited for it to pass. My emotions were out of control and I found that I didn’t want to talk to people anymore. Eventually I clued in that I was doing too much and my body and mind couldn’t handle it anymore.


I decided to quit my job and sign up for only one course the following semester. I didn’t know where my income would come from but I knew I could not continue the way I was going. Suddenly I went from being marginless to having large blank spaces in my schedule. It was a breath of fresh air. My body and mind recovered slowly. I learned what it means to rest in God and to rely on him. After a month without income I found a job that allowed me to work ten hours a week and still pay my bills. I felt as though I had been given the gift of time; time to spend with God, to read, to have spontaneous conversations with people I ran into, and time to rest.


We all need margins in our lives. Quitting your job probably isn’t practical (or necessary) but there might be things we need to cut out or relationships that we can spend less time on. It’s not always a matter of cutting out things that are bad but it might mean choosing between two things that are good. This requires saying ‘no’ once in a while.  I found it helpful to ask myself Is this something God is calling me to do or I am I saying yes because I feel like I’m the only one willing/able to do it? What will I be giving up to have this in my life?


God calls us to live life abundantly and having margins is important for that. Let’s make sure we keep some blank space in our schedules.