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JourneyNote: Lenten Margins

Posted February 21, 2024 in Religious Institutions

margin (mar·​gin)  NOUN

1: the part of a page or sheet outside the main body of printed or written matter

2: a spare amount or measure or degree allowed or given for contingencies or special situations

You wouldn’t drive 65 miles per hour on Interstate Highway 94 with your front bumper only a few inches from the back bumper of the car in front of you.  You wouldn’t book a trip through Chicago O’Hare airport with only a 5-minute layover between flights.  You wouldn’t run your car all the way to empty before driving out into the countryside, miles from the nearest gas station.

We build margin into our lives when it’s necessary. 

We build margin into our lives when it’s easy:  2 gallons of milk (for the price of one); a 250-count box of dryer sheets (not just 50); $60 out of the ATM (when $20 is all that’s needed); or, a 3-year subscription to the Wall Street Journal rather than just one year.

But what about the things we don’t perceive as necessary or the parts of life that are not easy?  Like the pages of The Saint John’s Bible, does your life have margin between the content and the edges?  Or, like so many people in today’s culture, do the lines of your life run right off the edge of the page—indiscernible, illegible, gone?

Physician and researcher, Dr. Richard A. Swenson, M.D., author of Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, defines margin as “the space between our load and our limits.  It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.”

A day seldom goes by when someone doesn’t confess to me that they’re exhausted or suffocating—or both.  I hear it from kids and adults.  I hear it from those in times of joy and days of darkness.  I feel it in myself.  It’s epidemic and it’s toxic.  We need margin.  We need…SABBATH.

Lent is a good time to explore the many facets and expressions of margin in life.  I believe it can be one of the most important elements of a faith-filled life.  The need for margin and Sabbath is universal and deep.  Part of the journey and discipline of Lent can be the practice of building margin into our otherwise over-crowded, over-loaded, over-scheduled lives.

Hear these words of Jesus as being spoken directly to you: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  (Matt. 11)

On the Lenten journey,

John Ross signature 

Rev. Dr. John F. Ross, Executive Director 

The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program 

Rev. Dr. John F. Ross, Executive Director
Rev. Dr. John F. Ross, Executive Director