We live with a set of margins every day. Your word processor operates on margins, your phone texting has margins, even the road upon which you drive has margins. So we’ve learned to live with margins. We live on the edge but there is a boundary that we know when we’ve gone too far or in some cases the margins inhibit our going too far. What about your use of time? Do you set margins in your day that says, “you can’t touch this?” Whenever we have a presbytery meeting we set the “orders of the day” which means there is a specific time for lunch and that means when that time comes all debate stops and we go to lunch. At one time in a factory centered society, you’d hear a whistle or bell go off which signaled lunch time or time to stop work and go home. Today, in our individualized society, people come and go seemingly at will and often neglect taking a specific time for lunch or eat on the go.
What has happened to margins in life? We’ve decided we can’t afford to set them so a typical day can be described as a “blended mess,” where the flow of work and activities never ends and the list of things we say we hold dear is never touched. Stop the madness!
Ecclesiastes 2:22–23 (ESV) — 22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.
Does that sound familiar? Too many days are spent in such turmoil that extends into the late evening and even when nightly rest is no longer rest because the mind does not have a wind down time as too often the evening is spent with additional stimulation. What can we do?
Mark 6:31 (ESV) — 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Jesus’ disciples had just returned after being sent out on a gospel mission of spreading the word about the Kingdom of God. Notice the description of what was going on when Jesus called them to come away and rest, “for many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Does that sound familiar? It’s easy to get caught up in the tyranny of the moment to the neglect of the important. Unless you preset margins to allow for regrouping and refocusing on what is important, you’ll find those important things are left out of your day. Jesus practiced setting margins. Notice the Scriptures speak of Him arising early, actually from spending an entire night in prayer, stopping what He was going and going to a different location, and even the choices He made about the places He was headed.
Luke 6:12–13 (ESV) — 12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:
John 4:4–5 (ESV) — 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Matthew 16:21 (ESV) — 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
Have you set margins in your day? Here’s a place to start. Set a margin for sleep, when it should end so you can spend time with God before you begin your day. Of course, as you set that margin, you’ll also need to set the margin for going to bed. That in turn means you’ll need to set a margin for when things begin to wind down so you are not spending the first few hours in bed trying to disentangle. That of course will mean you set a margin for your evening meal, which means you set a time to leave work or the activities of the day to get home. I think you get the picture. If you have a priority, design a margin in your day to allow for that activity.
Margins are most effective when they appear on your daily schedule. Why? Once you set an appointment on your calendar, you have a tendency to schedule around it rather than through it. Have you ever told somebody you couldn’t make a requested meeting at a certain time because you already had something on your calendar? Of course you have and you just find another slot. What if you set your margins in your 24 hour schedule for God, family, your health, etc. Whoa! You’ll find you will have time for what you say is important and you’ll be most productive elsewhere.
Ephesians 5:15–17 (ESV) — 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
What is the best use of your time? It’s not filling every space with work and stimulation. It’s understanding how to take the principles from God’s word in your daily schedule and that includes setting margins.