Mark Daniels Christian Blog and Commentary

A "Margin" for Error

It was an unusual Mother's Day message, but it was right on point. The guest speaker at our church chose to focus, not on great moms in the Bible, but on the dire needs of our families today.

The foundational text: Psalm 127. You're familiar with the passage; its wisdom comes from King Solomon himself. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." Can't miss the implications, nor the present tense of the verb. On what foundation is your home being built? The wise preacher asked us if we strive for what we need--that which the Lord will provide--or do we work to gain what we want. "Your children won't remember what you gave them a year from now, but they'll always remember the time you spent with them." Good counsel.

What the Holy Spirit was whispering in my ear as I listened to this veteran pastor were the words "priority" and "margin." The former has always been a challenge; pride, insecurity, and a lack of trust in Jehovah Jireh  have always driven me to spend more of my time and energy at work, rather than at home. But margin--what did that mean?

Then I realized it. Margin became quite the buzzword back in 1992, when an excellent book of the same name suggested that "margin" was the "key" to "curing" the "disease of the 90s" (How easy life seemed in 1992, compared to today!). But I confess to having missed the point.

"Margin" has always been something I've "built into" my plans, and my schedule. But can you see the problem with that approach? By trying to "control" life at the margins, the principle became self-defeating. Margin needs to be a "no-man's land" in my life. I can't "create it" on the edges of mi vida loca; I must simply see the margin ahead, and march no further.

But such an approach is impossible without the proper priorities. Put TV watching ahead of Bible study, and as that "border" approaches, the Bible study suffers. Place my job before my marriage, and I become an overworked divorce'. Put myself before my children...and our family suffers for generations.

Oh, and "cutting back" is not enough. I must choose to eliminate a few things from my life. A good place to start is by rejecting anything that doesn't pass the "sniff test" of Philippians 4:8--and that includes just about all that we call "entertainment" today.

It sounds so trite, but remains so true: God first, family second, and everything else in a very short line afterward. And Lord, please grant me the courage and the faith to practice what I preach. 

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