Summary: Part 4 in series Slowing Down. Many people who genuinely desire to follow Jesus have not created enough margin in their lives to do so. What are margins, and how do we create them in our lives?
Slowing Down, part 4
Wildwind Community Church
November 1, 2008
When you read a book or write a paper, what are the margins? Margins are two things – they are places that separate something from nothing. No book or report would look good if it were filled with words on the entire page. Margins create a sense of space. The other thing margins do is establish the guidelines for the print. Print does not go beyond the margins.
I wonder how many people there are in America right now who call themselves Christ-followers and who sincerely desire to do what Jesus would have them do, but who don’t have any margins in their lives and therefore can’t do it. Their entire lives are packed with commitments and responsibilities. There’s no blank space. Their lives are over-cluttered messes, like a page without margins. Their lives lack the beauty and order and definition that margins bring to life. Such people find that no matter how much they may want to seek God, their lifestyles and schedules simply make it impossible. We can intend all we want to do something, but if we have not created conditions in our lives where it’s possible to do what we have intended, it’s all in vain. This series we’re currently in is called Slowing Down. In week 1 I spoke to you about following Jesus the truth in the way of Jesus the Way. Many of us are trying to follow Jesus in a way that is more like Madison Avenue or Wall St. than it is like Jesus. We have swallowed this whole busy, American, fast-paced, individualized, marginless culture, but the way of Jesus stands in stark contrast to all of that. We will fail to obey the truth of Jesus is we do not walk the way of Jesus, because the truth of Jesus can only be lived along the way of Jesus. That was week 1.
In week 2 I asked you to consider how it is that we can pursue God in a way that doesn’t end up doing damage to ourselves and others. I have allowed that question to go unanswered for two weeks. Want the answer now? The answer was found in the sermon from the previous week. If we are going to pursue God in a way that doesn’t damage ourselves and others, we must pursue the truth of Jesus on the way of Jesus. If that doesn’t make sense, go back and listen to the first sermon in this series. But that’s it. The reason we end up doing damage to ourselves and others is because we pursue Christ in ways that are unChristlike.
In week 3 last week we talked about getting down off the pastor thing – realizing that God’s call is to all of us – that we have all been called and chosen. These are all immensely important things to think about and so in this series we’ve been practicing what we preach. The series is called Slowing Down, and I’ve taken my time in getting to where I’m ready to talk to you about the way you structure your life.
Not everyone here tonight is a Christ-follower, but for the majority of those of us who are, the main thing that gets in the way of us following Jesus the Way is the pace of our lives. The pace of our lives. The packed out, overcommitted, marginless way we live. Now I need to get real honest here for a minute and tell you that I had to eek out this sermon this week. Do you know why? Do you know why I had to make myself do this this week? Do you know why I couldn’t find the passion? Because I’ve lived my life with no margin the last few weeks. I have stayed up too late and functioned on too little sleep. I have not worked out because when I get up feeling that lousy I can’t drag myself to the club. I have felt sick because of stress and poor eating habits. Over the past couple weeks, worry and anxiety have slipped back into my life. I’ve spent too much time on the computer. I’ve watched too much news. I’ve absorbed too much world and too little God. I have slipped into a state I have come to call “soul starvation.”
I know there are many of you in that state right now. You are stressed. You are exhausted. You have stayed up way too late doing nothing particularly productive. You have moved away from the things that refresh your soul and recreate you to things that wreck your soul and reduce you. You are soul-starved. And worst of all, it is self-imposed soul-starvation.
If you’re anything like me, you can live in this state for weeks or months. I mean, it’s half-alive, or less, but you can stay there for a while. You get to where you are driven not by passion and purpose, but by pettiness. You stop investing your time and start spending it. Basically, you move God from his place in or near the center of your life to a place on the outside edge. You “let yourself go,” so to speak. You rush around and get things done and tick things off your task list during the day, and then sit and watch TV and eat junk food late into the night, which sets the perfect tone for doing the same thing the next day. C’mon, am I the only one who gets into these cycles?