By Kim Longden
I am a pretty task-oriented person, and if left unchecked, I will plow through human interactions for the sake of getting things done. Today was one of those days where, rather than really hearing my kids, I kept looking at the clock and the running to-do list in my head.
Not enough time to listen to the things they wanted to share with me; not enough time to help with things not on my list; not enough time to deal with discipline issues fully; not enough time to stop and enjoy something unexpected—just go, go, go and check those boxes before the day slips away.
Of course, order and planning are needed to get through our days here at home or we would never get anything done; but I can sense when I’m starting to get out of balance and forsaking relationships for tasks.
I’ve often heard it said that we should add “margin” into our daily schedule, rather than planning out every minute, to make sure we have time for the unexpected. When I feel myself slipping into taskmaster mode, I oftentimes find it’s because my margins have shrunk down, leaving hardly any extra time at all.
It’s hard for me to look at things that are unplanned as anything more than interruptions. But I’m starting to realize: what I consider interruptions are often opportunities to serve others. When I don’t leave enough margin in my day, I miss these opportunities because I am so focused on my plans—my checklist.
Recently, I heard the idea of allowing margin in our day compared to Leviticus 19:9-10 where God commanded the Israelites not to harvest to the edges of their fields—to leave a margin around the outside where those in need could gather as well.
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:9-10)
Creating margin in my daily schedule makes me more open to really looking at what’s going on around me because I’m not frantically rushing from one thing to the next. On days when we’re not so hurried, I don’t mind getting out the paint, or hearing about Minecraft, or dancing to our favorite song “one more time, please?”, or looking at discipline matters as opportunities to minister to the heart rather than annoyances to rush through.
More margin in my day also makes me more likely to write a note or send a text of encouragement to someone or to be open to an unexpected phone call … and maybe even answer my phone! The time is kind of like the extra crops around the fields in Leviticus—available for those in need.
So, after days like today, I’m prayerfully re-examining my margins and asking Jesus to show me how I can increase them again. If the checklist is too burdensome, where is He inviting me to let some of it go?
Jesus knows the plans He has for my family, and will bring these plans through to completion. That promise takes the pressure off me to feel like I need to “do it all” every day. Instead, I can begin to enjoy the time and relationships He has given me.
When we hold our plans—even our daily to-do lists!—with open hands and entrust them to Jesus, He adds beauty to our days in ways we could never have planned or imagined, like spending time with a son who is growing up so fast, or praying with a daughter who needs some reassurance, or lingering over a cup of coffee with your spouse.
The Spirit of Jesus moves in the margins—and as we intentionally create more margin, the Spirit promises to meet us there.
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3