Lord I can’t do any more!
I doubt I’m the only church planter who has ever prayed these words. But I might be the only one who said it with her pants inside out, baby throw up in her hair, while frantically searching for the Bible study she lost. In my defense, I had a four year old, a special needs newborn, a young church plant, lots of church meetings, a part time teaching job, and a full calendar of to-dos to rush into every morning. Plus, I was trying to live the missional lifestyle. The problem was, my missional lifestyle was swallowed up in my business. After a few too many frazzled months of trying to do it all, a dear friend mentioned the word margin to me.
Margin = The one step program for the missional lifestyle. That word margin worked on me like a spiritual caffeine drip. There was only one reason Isaiah was able to say, “Here I am, send me to the Lord.” He had margin. He was available. He wasn’t bogged down in church meetings and heavy laden with a to-do list the size of Goliath. I believe when we come to a point where we shout, “Lord, I can’t do anymore!” He shouts back, “Good! Now let me show you what I’ll do with your availability.”
If someone had told me I wasn’t being available to God at this point in my life, I think I might have crumpled up on the floor like an old worn out rag. I was trying to be so available on so many levels that I had forgotten how to simply be a girl, living with a boy. I’d forgotten how to enjoy my family and I hadn’t even tried to be a part of my community where there were beautiful friendships waiting to blossom. I was out the door so early each morning I hardly had time to say, “hi” to my neighbors. I came home in the afternoons to feed the family and head back out to do ministry. I had very little room left over in my life to be relational, let alone missional. But there is no mission without relation. I had to create margin. So these were my first three baby steps toward missional margin:
First, I stopped doing any ministry I wasn’t gifted at. If you’re a pastor’s wife you know what I’m talking about. I had my thumb in too many pies.
Second, I cut back my work hours and trusted God to provide the shortfall…and He did.
Third, I cut back the Dr. appointments and therapies I had to go to for my daughter with special needs. She needed the break too. I traded the mommy guilt for designated fun days each week where we had nothing on our schedule. Nothing. Including guilt for doing nothing.
Creating margin in my life meant I had time to be available for a life lived among those who may never enter my church building. It also caused us as a leadership to rethink the amount of meetings we had each week. Soon we decided to cut back on the amount of church meetings we asked people to attend. We began telling people to pick just one meeting mid-week. We started encouraging our leaders to not fill their week up with work and church. Trying to have a missional lifestyle while spending most of our time in the church is like trying to have an earthly marriage while living in outer-space. We can’t expect to understand a world we are too busy to talk to or a neighborhood we are consistently absent from. We need Missional Margin.
Soon after I began creating margin in my life, a woman approached me in my front yard. She was a neighbor I’d see while rushing to my car each morning. But today I was home and actually sitting in my front yard. Approaching me, she asked if I was a Christian. I said yes. She said she wasn’t, but that her mom had told her she needed to seek a spiritual person for some help. And then she proceeded to pour out her heart to me. At the end of our conversation she asked me if I could pray for her, her husband and her kids. I had done nothing but sit there and listen. I had been available to her.
This is what is so beautiful about the missional lifestyle. It isn’t another thing to check off our list. The missional life is a life willing to be still long enough to make real lasting relationships with people who may never come to church with you, vote like you, or think like you. Yet silly you, sitting in your yard like a stone in the road, may be the stepping stone that helps someone see the face of God. The missional life is the spiritual art of walking this earth as Christ did, available for those outside. Margin. I’m sure we can all raise our hands for this one! “Here I am, send me Lord.”
How about you? Where are you aching for some Missional Margin in your life?