The Margins

I am presently a full-time graduate student. This means that I am taking four graduate level classes and am in charge of my own schedule. I don’t have a boss telling me when to take a lunch break or anyone looking over my shoulder to make sure I use my time wisely. This is both marvelous and dangerous. Marvelous because yesterday I learned how to suture wounds and I have the time to volunteer, keep a sparkling home, and study my heart out.

My new favorite thing.

Not actually my house. But sparkling.

Dangerous because I also have time to lie on the couch and watch fulls seasons of Castle.

Which I haven’t done. Yet. But the danger lurks. And sometimes I am frightened by my free time. Like it’s out to get me.

This week’ sermon out of Living Stones Church was an exhortation to live life with forward motion – to get UNSTUCK. The all-star pastor included this statement that is still ringing in my ears:

The space between your current pace and your absolute limits is the margin of your life. It is in the margins that you will see change. Without margins, you are stuck.

Now, this goes against everything my inner over-achiever believes. It is certainly anti-Crossfit ethic and even the opposite of how some Christians have told me to live. “Go, go, go! Get up, you can do more! If you aren’t beat up and puking by the end of the day, you haven’t sacrificed!” And now I am supposed to believe that wide margins effect change? Ok, I am listening. And as I listened, it made sense. If I live in a flat-out run, when do I digest what God is doing? The things that I am supposed to absorb?

Don’t get me wrong, I know full well that there are seasons of life that require a break-neck pace. I don’t have to try very hard to remember that season just a couple of years ago. I was working, I was going to nursing school, and I was helping to take care of my mom with the rest of my family. There were days that included 8 hours of clinical on one floor of the hospital and then sleeping in my mom’s room on another floor of the hospital  before waking up, washing my face and going to class before I worked that night. Mom had crisis after crisis in her last year and our family learned to live with zero margins. I remember days of concentrating on things like breathing, scheduling when I could cry, and running for miles to feel something other than that all too familiar wicked cosmopolitan of emotions – selfishness, despair, anger, overwhelming grief, and fear. And through this season, we were sustained. I was sustained. We did what needed to be done and we loved each other through it all. Mom came home for a peaceful last two months and now she is really home in overwhelming joy. And my life has margins again. And over the last year I have absorbed what I was learning during that break-neck pace.

I am no longer running flat-out and I am grateful for my margins. I am grateful that I can take time to learn – to learn how to be a wife, how to be a Nurse Practitioner, and how to practice what God is teaching me. I know that there will be times coming up that my margins will narrow. Eventually I will work full time. Hopefully we will have children one day. These things will pick up the pace. But I will need to do what I can to maintain space to absorb. If we don’t have margins, we are stuck. We are running and going nowhere.

If you are flat-out today, I hope you can find some margins. Then we will really be running…upward and onward!

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