At the Catalyst One Day event in Houston last week, Andy Stanley posed a thought-provoking question to us: "Do you leave margins in your life?"
Although he addressed a sanctuary full of leaders, the application rings true for every person. We're all busy. We serve in church, take care of our families, work outside the home ... and the list goes on. But his crucial point was this: If we schedule every second of every day focused on completing our to-do lists only to fall into bed completely exhausted by day's end, how long do we hope to remain effective?
How long will we be able to mentally, physically, and spiritually sustain such a pace?
As soon as he asked that question, I mentally skimmed through my previous day's schedule. Between working full time, ministry and writing commitments, meeting with my editor over dinner, and preparing for upcoming speaking events, I had factored in no margin whatsoever.
Andy's point was that people serve other people in the margins. Without margins, we have no room to serve each other, much less God. We don't have time to ask someone else, "How can I help you?" because we're too busy needing help with our overcommitments.
Without margins, the surprises of life can push our time, energy, and emotional capacity over the edge. Margin-filled time creates reaction-based living. Reaction mode relegates God, family, and friends to receiving what little of us remains -- leftover intimacy, remnant strength, scraps of affection. We tend to miss the small joys and blessings of each day in our race to the finish line.
As I sat down to go over this week's schedule, I viewed my calendar through the eyes of setting margins. Surprisingly, making adjustments turned out easier than I thought. It just took a willingness to focus on priorities, commitments, and intentional refueling time (not to mention rekindled excitement about a kitchen project I've been wanting to tackle).
God has called us to run this race as long-distance runners, not sprinters who wear out after the 400-yard dash: "And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith." Heb. 12:1a-2b
So, I pose Andy's question to you as you view your upcoming calendar:
Do you leave margins in your life?
I had the amazing privilege of attending a Catalyst One Day event in Houston last week. As Craig Groeschel posed this question to us, it caused me to stop dead in my tracks: "Are you a spiritual contributor or a spiritual consumer?"
In our consumer-minded culture, we strive to acquire. Whether it's the latest gadget, a spiffy home improvement, or knowledge, our sights often focus on acquiring. But what are we doing with our acquisitions? I think we're getting fat. I'm not referring to physical fitness. We're getting fat on spirituality. Obese on religion.
I love to listen to podcasts of sermons, Bible studies, and Christian events. I look forward to digging in the Word to learn and grow. But what am I doing with all of that knowledge?
Am I going to church to see how well I'm served, or what I can do to serve? To see if the church service meets my preferences or greeting and serving those who may be there for the first time?
Craig Groeschel's point drove home the fact that, as Christians, you and I have been called to run a race. To be lean, clean, Gospel machines. To expend our time, energy and resources to convey God's saving message. To contribute anything and everything we can to demonstrate His amazing love as we serve the lost and hurting.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1
There has not been a day since the conference that I have not thought about his question several times a day. Consquently, God is stirring in me a fresh intentionality about what I do with what I acquire. So, as you survey your recent spiritual or material acquisitions, I pose the same question to you:
Are you a spiritual contributor or spiritual consumer?