Recently I returned from a ten-day study tour in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).
Before my trip several close friends and relatives had warned me about the dangers of Turkey, and some pleaded with me to back out of the trip altogether. According to some, I am too hardheaded to take good advice, but I am so glad that I stuck with the original plan! I was able to experience firsthand the beauty of Asia Minor, the excavated sites, and the teachings about the early church and how they spread God’s love in the first century Greco-Roman world.
After a late-night arrival at our first hotel, we were welcomed the first morning by gorgeous scenery and breath-taking views in all directions. Turkey is absolutely stunning! I had no idea it was going to be such a beautiful country!
Our guide led our group in a Rabbinic approach, which means that every morning it was a mystery where we would be traveling and what lessons the Lord would have for us throughout the day. The lessons were rich, the surroundings were awe-inspiring, and the connections made between the well-known words of Scripture with the context of the first century Greco-Roman world were absolutely fascinating.
Day 5 arrived like the previous four days: early alarm, stiff joints from hiking, quick breakfast, short devotional, and then a bus ride to our first destination — a vineyard. Rows upon rows and acres upon acres of lush vines full of gorgeous green grapes that looked ripe and ready to be picked. Little did I know that this would be the exact location God would choose to speak to me about my inability to create and keep margin in my life.
Margin. It’s a simple word with several meanings, but the meaning I’m referring to here is the empty space around the edge of a page.
I’m more of a narrow margin kind of girl, the kind that fills every single speck of this page called life. I wake up each day busy with a to-do list of tasks that I’ll never have enough time to complete and then go to bed exhausted, dreading the next day where I’ll hit “repeat” for the busy, margin-less day ahead.
It’s all “good” stuff! Every task I set out to complete is almost always good. Good things that fall under the category of “ministry,” so they must be good…right?
The problem is that I overexpose myself. I put my name at the top of too many lists, where I’m in charge, and because I’m a busybody, living a margin-less life, and serving the Lord…it all seems good.
Our rabbi explained the context of John 15, “The Vine and the Branches,” as we rested in the vineyard. He described the necessity of and the process of pruning (that’s a whole other blog).
After his teaching he gave our group time to walk along the rows of the vineyard to reflect on the teaching and listen to what God was speaking to each of us. I knew from the beginning of the lesson that God was telling me that it’s past time to make time. As I walked with tear-filled eyes, I came across an unhealthy clump of grapes that perfectly portrayed my margin-less life.
This unhealthy clump had gorgeous green grapes that were hidden behind a section of shriveled up, brownish-purplish raisins still attached to and hanging on the vine.
Grapes that were hogging the sunlight.
It was a perfect, horrific, and to be quite honest, ugly representation of my margin-less life.
My lack of margin had me so busy that I was unaware of the self-inflicting damage I was causing. Busyness was sucking the life out of me, and it wasn’t appealing. The overexposed grapes appeared unappetizing, nestled among the clumps with gorgeous, green, healthy grapes.
At once I realized — my life couldn’t possibly be appealing to anyone who was considering becoming a follower of Christ. No one would ever say, “I’d like my life to look like hers. She is always going, never stops, and so busy she doesn’t have time to do anything to the best of her ability.” That’s not the life anyone craves, and it’s not the life that I was created to have! God never intends for any of His children to run at a pace that cannot be maintained. No one was created to live every moment up front and center.
God did not create any of us to do it all!
In fact, we all play a part and have a place in God’s economy. Paul uses the image of a body for the people of God who make up the Church. We each have a role based on the spiritual gifts that we possess, but regardless of how meaningful or meaningless we feel our spiritual gift may be, to God it is no more or no less vital!
“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” 1 Corinthians 12:18-20
When I try to do it all, what I’m actually doing is stealing the joy someone else should be receiving by using the gifts and callings that God has placed in him or her.
I am still a work in progress. I’m trying to narrow down exactly what my God-given tasks are, working on pruning my areas of overexposure, which may sound much easier than it actually is, and intentionally setting margins on the future pages of my life.
I would love to hear how you create and keep margin in your life if you have a tendency to live overexposed!