I’m not great at resting. I’m not great at leaving space or even minutes unfilled in my day or in my planner. Whenever I drop one thing I’m immediately tempted to say yes to another. I wrote about rest just a couple weeks ago, but rest and margin are not exactly the same thing…both however require some intentionality to actually utilize in your life.
Margin is white space. Margin is a little give room. Margin could be room to rest or do something fun or pleasurable just for the sake of it. Margin could be seen as space for the overflow – the ability to say yes to coffee with someone who needs a listening ear, bring a meal to someone in a hard place, or do the extra things that invariably WILL come up. Margin allows us to do these things without it causing all the other pieces to crumble.
And as a mom of 5, business owner, and wife to a business owner, this is almost laughable. There is no room for margin! There are ALWAYS things to get done. But this year the Lord spoke the word Abundance over me and my household, and I was determined to figure out what that looked like. I stopped teaching fitness classes, I gave more over to Jennie to do, I spread out my patients a bit more, and we outsourced our cleaning at home…and it did indeed start to feel a little better. Once in a while, I’d even have an extra hour in my day where I got to PICK what I wanted to do! I could read, bake, or go for a walk!
But…then through the spring my business got busier, the kids got busier, and then summer hit, and chaos ensued. I decided to pick up fitness classes again (b/c Jennie started working a couple more hours for me, so surely I had room for it now, right?). Suddenly I was back to zero margin, but honestly, at first I didn’t even notice.
If you tend to operate this way as well, it’s sort of a default pattern. I have always tended to do too much. In high school, I worked a job year-round while playing sports in the fall, winter, and spring. In the summer I’d work 2 jobs instead. In college, I ran competitively year-round while working 2-3 jobs and always making sure I got A’s, which for me required a lot of studying. Graduate school was similar. This work ethic has helped me tremendously in life, but what it didn’t do was teach me how to rest or create space for fun and creativity. I don’t watch TV or movies or read, I have relatively no hobbies besides working out, and the one thing I will make time for is a walk or coffee with a friend (which does indeed fill my cup!)
So do we need margin? Is margin biblical? Because certainly God calls us to do hard things. Certainly, God speaks against laziness or selfishness. Instead, He calls us to work hard as if working for the Lord and not men. He calls us to serve and put others before ourselves. He calls us to hard things that will require us to rely on His strength in our weakness. If margin is biblical, then it should be true for ALL people across all time and in all locations. But do we see margin in the life of Jesus?
Jesus took time to be with the Father. He took time to rest. He took time to get away from the crowds. He also served. He got tired. He kept going even when I’m sure there were times He was exhausted and was sick of so many people asking so much of Him. But…it also never says that He went non-stop without rest. He was also human with human limitations, and He did utilize time to rest, replenish His Spirit, time to pray, and time alone.
So what about our cup? Does our cup need to be filled? How does that match with self-care? For so long, we were hearing that self-care is necessary and good. We can’t serve from an empty cup. Then a few weeks ago I saw a FB post that said you CAN indeed serve from an empty cup. So which is it?
I’m not an expert in this area, I’m just a girl who likes to process and ponder and ask my Father what He’d like me to do. I also think that this is going to look different for every single one of us. But here are a few questions:
- Is your life so busy that you have little to no time with the Father? Jesus made it clear that we needed to be connected to the vine to do ANYTHING and He set a clear example of getting away with the Father and relying on the Father. We learn to walk with the Father in our day, but we also need that time for our spirits to get restored by resting at His feet. We need both.
- How are you sleeping? Do you struggle with chronic fatigue or gut issues? How’s your health been lately? Do you feel like you’re operating pretty optimally or do you feel constantly drained, like you’re running on E? Do you feel energetic and light? (please know this has nothing to do with weight!) Or do you feel depleted most of the time, relying heavily on caffeine to get you through the day with very little to give to your family when you get home?
- Do you have any time for fun? Do you have any time for other people who are life-giving? Do you have time for any activities that might be life-giving? How much do you laugh during the day? Do you have trouble setting work down? Can you let something go for the evening to get caught up on sleep or be more present with your family?
These are some of the questions I asked myself. This summer I was back to a point where I wasn’t sleeping well. My phone was becoming more addictive as I was reaching for it to give me that dopamine hit my brain wanted. I was starting to feel some tension in my relationship with the Father. I was still spending time with Him, but it didn’t feel the same. I had less time for people, and I was so exhausted by the time I got done with work that I’d just want to lay in my bed rather than make supper or talk to my kids. I was only working out occasionally. I stopped getting up early, and I was struggling to fuel my body well b/c I was too tired to put the time in that it required. My cup was empty and though I DO have the Holy Spirit to help me, I was doing more than He had asked me to do. I was not under His yoke.
So here are my questions friends: Are you being obedient to the Spirit in all things? Are you taking on what He has asked you or do you keep saying yes to more? Are you striving b/c you think you need to make something happen when instead He’s asking you to trust that He will take care of it? Are you thriving in your busyness or is your busyness destroying you? Reminder: the Father is for our GOOD. He will not call us to something that is putting us into the ground. Now, sure there are seasons in life. Having a newborn is a season. Starting a new project or starting a business is a season. Some people (my husband included) have seasonal busyness in their job where they need to go, go go for a period of time. But it is seasonal and you know it won’t be forever. It’s in those seasons that we still need to walk closely with the Spirit and rely on Him daily for our help and strength. But a time of replenishment should come. And if you are finding that there is no end in sight, could you ask the Father to reveal some truth to your heart? Where have you taken on your own yoke that He hasn’t asked you to bear? How could you get creative in making a little margin during your day or week? How could you partner with your spouse or someone else to intentionally create some space for fun or rest? If it’s hard to do on your own, ask someone else for help. And if you are finding yourself constantly on E, but you can’t see where things could be cut, then I’d advise you to ask a trusted friend. Sometimes they can see what we can’t ourselves (but only if you are also ok with hearing their honesty, because sometimes what we need to give up is the last thing that we want to do).
For myself, God was asking me to once again give up my fitness classes. After teaching again this summer, I was in the same place that I was last November/December…feeling totally depleted. I was exhausted after the end of each day b/c I really struggle to sleep the night before and because these classes aligned with my office days, it was just too much for my body to handle mentally/emotionally. I’d end up with a headache and want to lay in my bed the rest of the night. My kids would be excited to see me after working all day and I would not want anything to do with them. Now..the kicker is that God blessed my classes! My classes are a place where fruit is produced, which makes it even harder! The women in my classes receive truth and bear fruit from it, and I receive a healthy dose of truth as well. The Spirit moves and gives us life in those classes. God just knocked our socks off in every single one, no lie! But I have no doubt this is also what He is asking me to lay down, at least for now, in this season, in this way, and I need to be obedient. I actually never heard from Him that He wanted me to even start again, I just did it b/c it made logical sense that I could fit it back in my schedule. But it wasn’t a yoke He had asked me to carry. I’m so thankful He still blessed them, but that doesn’t mean He’s asking me to continue teaching. Even good things can become things that keep us from living in abundance. And if it’s stealing from your relationship with the Father and your relationship with your family, then that might be a sign that He’s asking you to lay it down for an easier, lighter yoke.
What yoke hasn’t He asked you to carry? How can you respond in obedience today?