by Aaron Tiger
In my last article, I wrote about how God’s will is for us to have margin in our life and some practical ways we can have margin in our schedule. When we have margin in our life, we are able to be free to tend to the needs of others instead of tending to our “to do list.” We need margin in more ways than just with our time, but we need margin in a variety of different areas including our finances, our emotions, and spiritually. Below are some tips to have margin in those various areas of your life.
Around 40% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. When we are constantly spending all the money we make, something major will happen. Our car breaks down, our A/C stops working, or an arm gets broken, and our stress level rises. We need financial margin in our life to give us room when life happens.
Do you have an emergency fund? Finance teacher Dave Ramsey recommends saving $1000 for an emergency before paying off debt. After paying off debt, you want to have three to six months of expenses in a full emergency fund. Having that breathing room, to pay for a new set of tires or pay off a hospital bill, can help make these emergencies not slip over into the financial realm.
Do you have “margin money?” While I believe Christians are called to regularly tithe (which is 10% of our income we give to our faith community), I also believe it is good for us to have money set aside for something that might come up, and I call this “margin money.” When you budget, set aside 1% of your take home pay as margin, and then be open to how God wants you to use that this month. It might be used for you to take your spouse out on a date, make a special offering to a tragedy that has happened, or to randomly bless someone. The important thing is you have set this money aside to be used as God would have you use it.
Sometimes we are ticking time bombs ready to explode at the next person who happens to make us angry. Umm, that is not healthy. We need to have emotional margin, so if there is a crisis we can be a non-anxious presence.
Exercise gratefulness. When you focus on what you have received, instead of what you are lacking, life is better. Think on thankfulness.
Create appropriate boundaries. The book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend is a great resource to go in more depth with this need. Creating boundaries with people will help you not get caught in a codependent relationship and will give you freedom from certain people, so you can have more emotional room for yourself and others.
Release emotions in a healthy way. There is an old preacher story about a dad who everyday after work, before entering his house, would get his axe and chop at a tree. One day his kids asked him why he did that and he said, “I take my frustration out on the tree, so I don’t take it out on you.” We need to find ways to release emotion and energy in a healthy way. One of the best ways to do that is through physical exercise.
Be healthy. This seems simple, but the healthier your body is, the more able you are to handle stress. So eat right, sleep more, and exercise regularly.
We saved the most important area of margin for last. Some of us have crammed our life so full that we have scheduled God out of our life. I love what Eugene Peterson says, “I can be active and pray; I can work and pray; but I cannot be busy and pray. I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted or dispersed.” For us to be fruitful in our life with others, we need to be people who have spiritual margin.
Set aside time for agenda-less prayer and devotion. We should have specific prayer requests for God, but we should also go to God without a list of specifics. Start with five minutes in your prayer life and ask God to direct the conversation. Use a Bible reading plan that chooses scriptures for you, so you can listen to God’s Word instead of choosing what you want to read.
Give to others out of your margin, not out of your excess. Too often Christians give their extra to God instead of their firsts. When we give our extras, we wear out because we burn out. When we plan to have margin in our schedule and we give, we feel renewed.
Be present in worship. Nothing gets us out of the idolatry of busyness like worship. When we set aside time in our weekly schedule to honor God, thank God, praise God, and listen to God’s Word, we remember life is not about doing things, but about being with God.
Aaron Tiger is a child of God, a husband, a dad, a pastor at FUMC Tulsa, and the editor-in-chief of The 918. He would have written this article earlier if he actually would practice what he preaches.