Thursday, October 11, 2007

Margin is a key to joy (first in a series)

The other week my wife and I were invited over to watch a TV show with some friends, and when she called to remind me that we were going that night, I crumpled inside. It had nothing to do with our friends, whom we love. It was just that I felt so overloaded with my life that even doing something fun like that felt like a burden; I wasn’t sure that I could even enjoy it. If ever there was a sign that something was wrong inside me, that was it.

Perhaps you can relate on some level to this experience – my bet would be that most people in the Western World could, as I hear more and more stories of overloaded people being crushed by their schedules and their finances and continuing to feel the need to add more and more to their lives. Those who have spent time with me know that for about a month I’ve been beating a drum called MARGIN, and now it’s time to put that beat onto “paper” in the blogosphere.

To start this series, I want to share a place in Scripture that God has used to encourage me to make room for more in my life. Jesus feeding the 5,000 is the only miracle (besides the resurrection) recorded in all four Gospels, and John’s account of this event comes in chapter 6. I recently spent a day looking at this passage with some other InterVarsity staff in a guided retreat, and as we came together and shared at the end of the day, a fellow overloaded staff had some great insight into the passage.

She first noticed that Jesus asks, “Where can we find bread to feed all these people?” and Phillip replies with a “how” answer – “Six months wages couldn’t buy enough.” Andrew answers the “where” question correctly (“Here is a boy with 5 loaves and a few fish), but doubts that what is “here” is enough (“but how far will they go among so many?”). If I were a disciple, I may have answered like Andrew (on a good day) and then I would have made every effort to add to what was “here.” Maybe try and bake some bread, or run to town and get some bread to add, whatever I could do. But ultimately, it would never have been enough to feed 5,000.

Attempting to do more or create more than what we have “here” erases margin. Cramming more in an attempt to help Jesus accomplish His work erases margin. Well-intentioned efforts to fix the brokenness of the world can erase margin.

Simply giving Jesus what we have, recognizing and accepting the limitations, and trusting Him to make it “enough” is the beginning of having space and rest in our lives.

3 comments:

Rachel said...

well said marsh. excited about this series. it seems when we leave space in our lives open and unscheduled, we're more likely to have ears to hear the Holy Spirit. hear Him bring something new... a new person, a new thought, a new plan, a challenge, an encouragement, a reminder.

re: all the scheduling options that come our way... i'm thinking: just b/c i can doesn't mean i have to. just b/c "everyone else" is doing it/has it doesn't mean i need it. there are increasingly more options and i need to be increasingly better at saying NO.

Marshall Benbow said...

Saying "no" is one of the biggest parts of having margin in our lives. It's so hard, yet so necessary. Thanks for readin' Rach!

Ashleigh said...

I haven't gotten to read your series yet, but I wanted to say..

1) Thanks for the links/pumped.
2) Heard about the Andy Stanley series via Alex; listened to 4 of the 6; loving it! (Have you read any of his books, btw? Really enjoyed Visioneering for C-Team this summer...)
3) I really am starting to love the word margin-- it's one of the most useful "new" words I've heard in a long time. So even if Dayna's about to strangle you (saw that part while scanning), I am giving you a gold star.
4) Nice StudentSoul shout-out going on... ironically, the link to you was right under the link to Al Hsu, an IVP editor whose blog I also read. My friends are doing well in the blogosphere it seems. :o)