The books needed a purpose again. They had been boxed up for too many months and either needed to find residence on a shelf in my office or find a new owner. They weren’t doing anyone any good hidden away from the world.
I don’t remember what motivated me that particular day to clean out my books and slice open the tape on the box, but that’s what I did. I organized the books by categories and determined to start reading through them one at a time, then pass them along to others.
But where to start?
I settled on the leadership category, the discipleship category and the relationship category — all areas that continuously need polishing in my life.
As I glanced over the titles, my eyes noticed a handful of books focused on balancing life and creating margin.
Margin — the space between ourselves and our limits.
I remember understanding that word for the first time about 10 years ago when a colleague pointed out I had none. He wasn’t the first nor the last to note this about me, but he was the first I remember using this particular word.
I didn’t really worry about it at the time, but life — as life tends to do — exposed my true deficit of margin and recently I’ve landed in a season where margin is vital.
When we leave no space in the area between ourselves and our limits, then every day can feel like it is out of control and the more we try to gain control of our lives, the more we lose the battle.
And don’t even get me started on how the toothpick world in which we live comes crumbling down the minute one thing doesn’t line up in order.
As I reflected on my personal battle with margin that day, I focused on the titles trying to decide which book to pull off the shelf.
When I saw one simply titled “Margin,” that seemed like the best place to start. I pulled it out of the lineup, laid it on top of the other books and within minutes forgot about it.
But that book wouldn’t be invisible for long.
A few weeks later in a conversation with a group of friends attempting to navigate their own margin struggles, at least three people suggested I read Richard A. Swenson’s book, “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.”
I made a note to get the book and even started looking up where to buy it when it hit me — there was a book with the title “Margin” already pulled out on my shelf ready to read. Sure enough, it was the same book.
And when I thought through why I had the book but had never read it before, I realized I had actually purchased the book in the mid-1990s right out of college.
I don’t remember exactly why I purchased it, but it made me realize that despite many years of ignoring the need for margin my quest for it has been a 20-year journey.
Oblivious to issue
Swenson says most people don’t realize their need for margin nor the fact they have eliminated it in their lives. We are working through pain, overload, stress and frustration, not realizing we are furthering the difficulties the longer we fail to create space. And we are hurting our relationships to self, others and God in the process.
Problems one at a time are perhaps manageable, he says, but “they just won’t stand in line. Instead they grow from problem pile into problem mountain and then all fall on us at the same time.”
—Jennifer Davis Rash