|A beautiful narrow two-way road in Co. Wicklow Ireland|
Prior to our arrival in Ireland I pastored for 20 years. Each week I would prepare at least one message. My habit was to take a yellow pad and at some point in my study to jot down an outline with some notes. As I continued to think I would fill in the outline, adding illustrations, thoughts, and ideas. It always amazed me on looking back at my note pad how the best thoughts could often be found in the margins. We all need to live with margins in our lives.
A number of years ago I was reading a book by Richard Swenson, M.D. The books title is Margins.... He was speaking about the need to restore emotional, physical, time and financial reserves in our lives - margins! As I was reading the post by Verne Ward... I could not help but think about this book... and how vital it is we have margins in our lives for our own health, but how we also need them in ministry... space where God can work in ways we'd never imagine. It's true we all need to live with margins in our lives.
I've already mentioned how I was a pastor for 20 years prior to our move to Ireland. Can I confess something to you? Much of my life lacked any real margins. My life was so full I didn't have time for so many things. I didn't have time for my neighbors. I didn't have time for casual conversations in the store. I was driven.... I was always going somewhere to do something. On arriving in Ireland I found myself in a very different place. I didn't have a congregation. I didn't have a sermon to prepare. I didn't have meetings to attend. I struggled. I was so used to going from meeting to meeting from responsibility to responsibility that I felt I was doing nothing. I found myself missing those things. I know I'm crazy! We've now been here a year and some of those things are creeping back into my life... BUT I am resolving to maintain some good margins in my life.
We've been in Ireland just over a year now and I'm finally getting comfortable on those narrow roads. You might say they have NO margins - there's certainly no room for error. While I may be getting use to driving these narrow roads... I never want to embrace a life without margins again. Why? Because so often it's in the margins that GOD does His best work. In those place you'd never imagine. In those conversations you didn't engineer, but which just happened... that HE works.
How are the margins in YOUR life?
Why not determine to create some space where God might do something you'd never imagine? Wondering what I'm talking about? Read Verne Ward's post below as he shares a story about life in the margins for he and his wife, Natalie...
Living with margins
When we lived in Singapore, a city of 5.2 million people on a very small island, we shared our personal space with strangers regularly. Even so, it’s not easy to strike up a conversation with someone during daily commutes by train or bus. We quickly learned the importance of building open margins into our day and our schedules, so we could take time to notice people and talk to them if God gave us the opportunity.
One day, Natalie was on a crowded train, standing close to a young woman who was wearing the dark, shapeless, full covering of her traditional religion. Natalie noticed a bright splash of red peeking out from the hem and said to the woman, “Your shoes are beautiful!”
The woman’s eyes brightened and she thanked Natalie for the compliment. Natalie asked what the woman was doing in Singapore, and learned that she and her husband were newlyweds who had just moved to Singapore for his work.
“Congratulations!” Natalie said.
“Thank you,” the woman said. “How long have you been married?
My wife answered, “Thirty-three years.”
The woman was impressed, saying, “That’s a long time.”
“Our marriage gets better all the time, and I love my husband more now than the day we got married,” Natalie remarked.
“It’s not like that for us,” the woman replied. “Sometimes I get very angry with my husband.”
Natalie smiled and replied, “I get very angry with my husband, too.”
“What do you do when you are angry?” the woman asked.
“Usually I just stop and pray, asking God to help me be the woman He wants me to be, and in my anger that I would not do anything He would be displeased with.”
In a rush of emotion, the woman took hold of Natalie and said, “I could learn so much from you.”
They exchanged contact information and soon they were meeting regularly to talk about marriage and living a life pleasing to God. Eventually, I met her husband and we became good friends, too.
Now we live in Kansas and our friends have moved to California, but our story has not ended. We remain in touch and visit when we can. The young man and I exchange encouraging text messages, and we have tried to help them understand U.S. culture, and to overcome their fears about moving here. Natalie and I pray for them often.
Margin in our lives is required to be able to respond to Him in obedience when He puts opportunities for Christ-honoring relationships in our path.
Verne Ward III
Global Mission Director
Church of the Nazarene