Thursday, October 11, 2007

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

Continuing with the John 6 passage from my last post, another thing that my friend pointed out was the small detail of “there was plenty of grass in that place.” John's gospel is the only one to note this about the grass, and this small detail has a big impact in thinking about margin. Jesus had plenty of space to work, plenty of space for a miracle to happen. I so often go through life running from event to event, meeting to meeting, task to task, and rarely is there space or time for me to allow Jesus to speak or really work. There is not “plenty of grass” where He could lead me to a random person, where He could have me sit down for a time of listening to Him. There is no room for a miracle, and really, there is functionally no need for a miracle because my life is so controlled, filled right up to the limit or the breaking point.

But watching Jesus in this story reveals no hurry, no pressure, no crowding. There is room to love, room to provide. And in this place of roominess and margin, there is enough. Actually, there is more than enough. We see phrases like “as much as they wanted” (not needed), and “they all had enough to eat”, and “they filled 12 baskets with the pieces left over.”

Think of it – we see five loaves and two fish (“two small fish", Andrew says), which represent our lives with limited time and resources and we say, “It’s not enough, Lord, in the face of such a fantastic need, so let me try harder and do more.” But Jesus only asks that we give Him what we have and allow Him to make it enough.

Andy Stanley has recently preached a series on margin called “Take It to the Limit” (you can download the podcast for free by searching Northpoint Ministries on iTunes), and one thing he posits is that our lack of margin is primarily driven by fear – fear that we will miss out on something good. Whether it is a good material thing (so we spend all that we have), or it’s a good social thing (so we overload relationally), or it’s a good ministry thing (so we say yes to every opportunity that comes our way as long as Jesus is involved), we are afraid to miss out on the “good life.” The irony is that life with margin and space is not the good life, it’s actually the best life. It might not be full of “stuff”; it might not be full of people; it might not be full of "ministry" for the church resumé. But there is room for real relationship with God and with people. And there is plenty of grass for Jesus to work miracles, both in our hearts and through our meager offering of our lives.

Here is a great article on margin from the IV student site,


Our life.... said...

Hi Marshall,
I am Meredith Uber's sister. I connected to your blog from her blog! Anyway, my husband Jonathan and I did the Andy Stanley series "Take it to the Limit - Margins" and it truly changed our lives. We recommend it to anyone. We have made several big decisions as a result of what we learned from that study. Margin helps bring balance to your life and bring a peace that wouldn't be found if no margin (whether emotional, spritual, relational, financial) was there.
Great post!
Joy Morgan

Alex said...

great post marsh! stanley's stuff has been great for me, too.

incidentally, mark 6 also records the feeding of the 5,000 that Jesus "had all the people sit down on the green grass." Given that Mark was the first to record Jesus' ministries and that Luke and Matthew at least used Mark's stuff, it's significant that there was, indeed, margin for this miracle. That passage changed the direction of the ministry at VCU when I asked students to help us to cultivate a patch of green grass for our commuter-campus ministry and several students made radical decisions to live a block off campus together. By helping to create a space for students to gather and play and pray and worship, the community really took off!

Great post!

Marshall Benbow said...

Yes, I knew that Mark said "green grass" (I have heard your most excellent talk on that small detail :) ). He doesn't say "plenty" though, which is the detail I thought was a little different than the other 3. I like how you made the jump as you studied Mark from seeing "green" and understanding "plenty".