Saturday, June 18, 2011

MARGIN - do you have it?

I love my job at C.A. (so does Nan). It is what I believe God designed me to do. It is challenging and satisfying and I love the people I work with. So when I feel myself pulling back from it or getting irritable, I know something is wrong.

A few years back Nan & I invited Dr. Richard Swenson to speak at Christian Assembly. He is the author of a book entitled “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.”  This concept of ‘margin’ struck a loud chord in my soul and it has been a theme I have been talking about (and paying attention to) ever since.

Margin is the space between your load and your limit.

If you have $3000 (limit) coming in and $2700 (load) going out, you have a margin of $300. You can relax in the area of finances. But if you spend or commit the $300, you have no margin. Any expense you incur after that throws you into a deficit position and you are in financial pain. Your load has just exceeded your limit. It is always sad to see someone who is so burdened by debt that their options have been virtually eliminated. It is doubly painful when they are the perpetrator of their own financial imprisonment.  

The same thing applies to time. When I am fully or over committed and have left insufficient time for rest or recreation I can begin to resent even the positive things in my life. Any new opportunity seems like a burden instead of a possibility.

In the same way we can run down our health by overeating (or eating junk food), under-exercising, under-sleeping. We use up our reserves and fuel ourselves with coffee and adrenaline and our body suffers.

I often see couples stress each other out with emotional baggage to the point that all the grace is used up. At times I have heard someone in counseling declare “I have reached my limit. NO MORE!” At this point the relationship is in real trouble and there is no margin for future error. Any new stressor may result in the total breakdown or breakup of the relationship.

So how are you doing in those areas in your life? Where do you lack margin?

The solution is to take positive control over your own life. Learning to say ‘no’ to yourself and others may be a challenge. It’s never easy to turn down fun opportunities, or resist spending money or take the extra energy to prepare a healthy meal. But the reward of margin will far outweigh the effort. It will allow you to be able to say ‘yes’ to really significant things as they present themselves. And you will experience joy in doing them instead of pain.

Wrap your mind around the concept of margin and reap the harvest.

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