Margin, anyone?

A few months ago, my friend Jonathan Sharp introduced me to the concept of living with “margin.” (Jonathan, if you’re reading this, I hope I’m getting it right).

Think of “margin” this way: when you read a book, words don’t fill every page from cover to cover. There is space before and after chapters. There is space on each page, and sometimes space even between the lines. This gives you room to make notes, to fold corners, and it makes the text more pleasant to the eye.

Living with margin means that you don’t plan to spend every dollar of your budget or every minute of your time. You have space to breathe, both financially and personally. The reasoning is fairly simple: modest budgets and simple living means less work, less stress, and more freedom.

Jesus, I imagine, had massive amounts of margin during his ministry. Even though he was pressed by people all around him, he had the margin to act and move about (or to retreat from ministry) as he judged best. He wasn’t preoccupied with the need to maintain houses and riches and routines.

Two or three years ago, before we even began to talk about the issue in terms of “margin”, my wife and I started thinking in those terms. Financial decisions these days, generally take into account – among other things – their impact on the kind of margin that they create (or remove).

For me, margin can…
– Allow me to say “yes” when my 8 year-old asks to play chess
– Give me the freedom to take spontaneous walks with my wife
– Free up spare change to give to a need that arises suddenly
– Open up the opportunity to practice the disciplines of Christian spirituality that require time, space, and silence
– Allow for time to stop and help people that need professional help, but can’t pay for it
– Let me blog
– Allow me to set aside my blogging (as I did on this entry, after some encouragement from Sheila) to watch one of my kids demonstrate her newly-learned ability to do cartwheels.

Margin is good.

What sort-of things can/does margin do for you? Anyone want to add to the list?


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