Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. (Exodus 23:12 ESV)
When you look at a printed page, you immediately notice that the space around the edges is white and without printed copy. This is known as the margin. If the words went all the way to the edges of the page, there would be no margin. For many of us, our lives are so completely filled with one activity after another that there is no margin . . . no room for down time, leisure, recreation, or rest. At this level of living, we are trapped in “No-Margin Misery.” But this is not for you! Read on and be encouraged.
In our passage today, we see what God thinks about margin, for He installed it into the weekly cycle of life. Notice that the Lord did not say, “Seven days shall you work.” Notice also that He did not say, “One day you shall work and rest the other six.” Our God who formed us in the womb knows exactly what we need, and He has installed margin around the borders on the pages of our lives.
And yet, in spite of God’s gracious provision, many people live marginless lives. Many people wear this marginless life as a kind of badge, because our culture exalts busyness and overextension. I know this from personal experience, because this I once wore this badge with pride. If you are way too busy and incredibly overextended, you assume that you are in a position of great importance and influence; you assure yourself that you are “indispensable.”
This fiction that feeds our ego, but in reality, when we maintain this marginless existence long enough, our lives begin to break down. We break down physically; we break down emotionally; we break down mentally; we break down spiritually. Worse still, everyone around us, especially those who mean the most to us, suffer . . . often in sorrowful silence. If you ask my wife, Kim, I’m sure she would frankly tell you that I carried this marginless mindset into my early years as a pastor, to the detriment of our family. Kim might wryly refer to my existence as “No-Margin Ministry.”
So what is the solution to No-Margin Misery? We must believe and trust that God’s plan for our lives is better than our plan. Remember, it is God who created us and it is God who knows best what we need. And we all need margin in our lives. As busy as Jesus was in His ministry to so many, He lived with the perfect amount of margin in His life. He often retreated to solitary places to pray. He took time for meals with others and attended wedding celebrations. On at least one occasion, He even took a nap! (Matthew 8:24).
Do you remember the instruction Jesus gave to Martha about margin? Both Martha and her sister Mary were busy preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples, but Mary knew when to shut down and sit at the feet of her Master. Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen “what is better” — resting from her work to sit quietly in the presence of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). May this be the confession of all our lives.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!