There are many things that can keep us from responding to God’s call to become fellow workers with Him, but for many who grapple daily with the chaos of modern life, time is a major impediment. Because there are no easy answers, the temptation for us is to forget the whole idea. What we need is margin.
Margin is the extra space between the things we must do and our capacity. When we use up all that space, there is no margin. When extra demands come or something unexpected arises, we suffer overload. We feel harassed, stressed and experience all sorts of negative effects on our health and our emotions.
As we continue learning to worship God and trust Him, when the crisis hits, we will bend but not break. Oswald Chambers writes,
“we have to pitch our tents where we shall always have quiet times with God, however noisy our times with the world may be.”
There is a degree to which we must realize that our daily responsibilities of work, kids, house chores, extended family, etc, can and should be executed to the glory of God and in a very real sense as an act of worship. And there are seasons when those activities alone consume all of our bandwidth.
Yet even in that complex chaos, we can survive and minister. Chambers echoed what Mark wrote about Jesus. Here’s Mark:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35
In order to thrive and be able to minister we need to have margin, which is found in Christ Himself living in us. In Mark chapter 1 we find Jesus traveling through Capernaum preaching, healing and casting out demons. He was busy, had a full schedule and was being pulled from many directions with people wanting his time. Yet we see in this snapshot that he “pitched his tent” to have time with God.
Henri Nouwen writes,
In the middle of sentences loaded with action – healing suffering people, traveling from town to town and preaching from synagogue to synagogue — we find these quiet words. In the center of breathless activity we hear a restful breathing. Surrounded by hours of moving we find a moment of quiet stillness. In the heart of much involvement there are words of withdrawal. In the midst of action there is contemplation. And after much togetherness there is solitude.
So even when responsibilities prevent much margin, we can retain a stillness of heart.
But often we find that our lack of margin is not from family or work responsibilities, but the myriad of other activities with which we fill our schedule. The question becomes one of import. To what am I giving my time? If God places an opportunity in my path to serve, am I able to participate, or am I so tangled up and stressed with life that I miss it?