Is the margin wide enough?
Do your remember writing on notebook paper back in your school days? The horizontal blue lines provided the space for writing. The vertical red lines marked the margin. They showed us where to start and where to stop.
Now most of us do our writing on computers, where we can set the margin with a click. We might adjust the size of the margin, but we always leave some margin. After all, it’s hard to read a document if the writing stretches all the way to the edge of the page. The empty space of the margin helps focus our attention on the words in between.
In the same way, farmers understand the need for margins. They usually don’t plant all the way to the fence line around a field. They know they need some margin at the beginning and end of each row, at least enough space for people and equipment to get by.
How do we create margins in our lives -- enough space around the edges? I first heard this question at a retreat a couple of years. We were reminded that the ancient practice of Sabbath helps create a margin in our lives. It gives us a buffer of time. Like those thin red lines on notebook paper, Sabbath rest says “Stop here.” We need that pause, that empty space.
Sometimes, saying “No” is a kind of Sabbath practice. At the beginning of the school year, my family realized we needed more margin. With two working parents and two school-aged kids, it is all too easy for us to pack our schedules. We made the hard decision to hit pause on some activities that we love. It can be tough enough to say “no” to those requests we don’t really want to do anyway. How much harder to say “no” to things we enjoy! But we realize that there are simply more interesting and valuable opportunities than we can fit in.
We increased our margin. For us, more margin means that there’s time to throw the football in the backyard in the evening, or to linger at the dinner table. It means less “hurry up!” and more breathing room.
Protecting a margin in our lives is a challenge in almost every season of life. College students juggle classes and work along with rehearsals for music or theater. Retirees navigate volunteer commitments, time with family and more.
Do you have enough space around the edges of your life these days? Is the margin wide enough? If not, consider as a Sabbath practice finding a way to create a little more room at the edge.