This summer I have been about the work of making margin. My life was feeling overstuffed. Like a balloon that had too much air; like when you know in your soul that one more puff of air would be one too many. And you know what they say, "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye." (My husband also says, "Your nose is not a pocket," but that's for another discussion.) Since there are only so many hours in a day, I had to let go of some things. I began to write in my journal each evening, recording those things that were sucking the life out of me. Not the things that left me tired, but the things that gave me little life. After a month of listening here's my partial list. (I only share it because you might find these things on your list, too.)
I'm letting go of the work of managing my image. Trying to manage what people think of me is exhausting. (And truly it's a facade, people are not things, they can't be managed. They can be loved, but won't put up with management for long.)
I'm letting go of worry. If the very worst I can imagine actually happens; still I am never abandoned. I am never alone. God is with me and his resources are endless. As Dallas Willard used to say, "The universe is a perfectly safe place to be," and this is true because God is always with me. I have nothing to fear.
I'm letting go of outcomes. It's a humble act to do so, and I'm growing into it. To release outcomes is to admit the limit of my reach, the end of strength and influence. It's to actually rely on the Holy Spirit and put a stop to the smoke and mirrors of perceived control.
None of these things can be released by sheer will. But they can be replaced with things that create space instead of fill it. Here's a short practical list of replacements that were helpful for me.
- Add a time of silent prayer with no agenda. Once when I wake up, and once before I go to bed. Just be in God's Presence. Bring my attention to him and smile. For a few minutes-- smile, and know with certainty he smiles back. (The key to this is longevity. Benefit is found in taking the long road. Do this everyday for a month and then "see how it's going.")
- Listen to my children and spouse, completely, all the way through to the end of what they have to say. Take a deep breath, and breath a prayer before I answer. I have heard it said that "Who we are at home is-- who we are."
- Give up media (especially FB) for a set period of time. At the end, reflect on how it made me feel. I asked the people who live with me how it changed my behavior. (I refuse to tell you what they said.)
- Reflect on my motives behind my commitments. (This one required courage.) Ask why I (examples are not all are applicable to me)-- teach Sunday School, serve on the school board, parent a certain way, read my Bible...) Bring my motives to God. Then I try to be honest and look and see if the source was image management, worry or concern with outcomes.
I have been about this work before and I'm awfully glad to enter in intentionally this summer, again. But I suspect I will be about this work for the rest of my life.
Making margin has yielded big wide open spaces. I have stepped away from some things, found the courage to change others. I have found space enough to love my neighbors in practical ways when they need it. Space enough to listen to my daughter's concerns about adulthood. Space enough to throw a baseball with my ten-year old who desperately wants to learn to pitch. Space enough to cry with a friend through past hurts. Space enough to confront my sin. Space enough to hear God smile and smile back.
How are you making margin these days?
*The book Margin Richard A. Swenson, M.D. has been a great help.
*Lastly, I struggled with the transparency of this post. Letting readers in on a little bit of my own "crazy" is risky. I'm drawing courage from one of my favorite Saints. It is said of Columcille (also known as Saint Columba of Iona) that he "is the archetype of the 'peregrinatus',the wandered or pilgrim who abandons security for a journey which is extremely costly, and yet whose reward is ultimately everlasting life." -taken from the Wisdom of Saint Columba of Iona