"If we could just get this stuff right," I said to my husband, "our lives would be amazing." I had just finished listening to Pastor Andy Stanley's Breathing Room sermon series, which addresses the importance of the way we spend both our time and money and argues that life is simply better with breathing room. Relationships thrive when there's breathing room. We experience greater joy and peace when there's breathing room. And ultimately we have more opportunity to grow in our relationship with God when there's breathing room.
Now, I realize this message may seem like common sense. We know this stuff. It's nothing new. But I question how many of us still live our lives to the limit.
We live in a fast paced world––in a society that makes productivity and "success" top priority. As Americans, we're called to work hard and achieve the fallacious "American Dream." But I don't believe this is what God has in mind for us. When we look at God's Word, we see a different way of living and, frankly, a different way of thinking altogether.
God has been speaking to me on the topic of creating margin for quite some time. In fact, about a year ago, God just about forced margin upon me when He called my family and I to leave the church I had been heavily involved with, which required me to step down from the leadership roles I had held. This move freed up a considerable amount of my time, and in a way, I felt lost. Sure, I was still writing. I was still serving God in that capacity. But as my family and I sought to follow God's will to find our new church home, I found myself with time I did not have before. There was breathing room, suddenly, when I had been living without for so long, and though I needed this down-time, I didn't quite know what to do with it.
God intended this to be a season of rest and rejuvenation in my life, and I was thankful for it. The margin-less life I had been leading left me tired––exhausted, really––and it was in this place that God taught me to rest in Him and to simply be a child of God.
I tend to be an achiever. I do stuff. And when I'm done, I do some more. So the need to keep this message central in my mind is important. The doer in me still wants to fill my schedule and work to capacity, but I know this is not God's will. And as I listened to these sermons, I loved how Andy Stanley walks us through the creation of the nation of Israel after Moses led his people to freedom. He points out that God created margin in every area of society. That He intends for us to not use all our time or money or resources all the time. Pastor Andy reveals that when we feel apprehensive to make room for margin, we are actually not trusting God. For, God tells us to make room. To not glean our fields to the edges. To not work seven days a week. To take time for rest. And to trust Him to fill in the gap.
Yes, we're to work diligently, unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).
Yes, we're to do whatever we're called to do with all our might (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
But, we're also called to take a day off, not every once in a while, but every week (Exodus 20: 8-11).
And we're to leave the edges of our fields (Leviticus 23:22). To me, this means we don't need to work in toil to maximize productivity. Yes, we work diligently, but not to the extent that we fail to trust God to provide for our needs. Ultimately, He is our provider, and He will sustain us.
With my new book deadline starring at me, it would be easy to allow my focus to narrow far too much, leaving the needs of my family and friends unmet in the name of achieving my desired result. But God is calling me to something different. Really, He calls everyone of us to something different. We're called to trust God with our time, recognizing that He is the maker and keeper of time while we rest in the knowledge that anything He calls us to do will get done in its proper time.
We don't need to run on the perpetual treadmill endorsed by our fast-paced American society. We can find a healthy rhythm for our lives, even in the midst of deadlines.
So, when it's time to work, work diligently.
And when it’s time to rest, rest with assurance that while you rest, God is sustaining all things.