If I were to ask you, “What does the word ‘margin’ mean to you,” how would you respond? Would you immediately think of the spacing that lines the edges of your documents in Microsoft Word? Or, would you go a bit deeper in contemplation, thinking about the importance of boundaries and reserving time and space for rest?
I don’t often use this blog to share personal stories. In fact, I rarely do. However, if you would go with me there today, I promise you there is great significance and Biblical insight that I will offer at the end. Just five minutes of your time? Thanks, friends.
For those of you who know me or spend any amount of time with me on a weekly or even monthly basis, you would probably remember well that 2014 was NOT my best year health-wise. In fact, I was very sick nearly all twelve months of 2014, and to say it was challenging would be the understatement of the year. While I’ve heard that many people move to Arizona to escape their allergy problems, mine found me here. I never struggled with allergy issues in my life, to anything, but after a few years of desert living, I found that “allergy season” was more of a year-round thing for me.
It hasn’t been uncommon for me to have multiple sinus infections each year because I have found it very difficult to keep my symptoms under control. By the end of 2014, I felt as if I had exhausted every measure to find and maintain health in this area of my life but without success. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Anybody else?
At the beginning of February, 2015, my travels brought me back to my roots—to the beloved city of Chicago. I always enjoy going back to visit for many reasons, one of which is that my allergies always calm down when I exit the valley of Phoenix. While in Chicago, I found myself in conversation with one of my best friends about this new diet she and her husband were on, and I was fascinated by the results she was experiencing. Now, PAUSE for just a moment to hear me say:
“I don’t do diets. I never have. I will never be a fan of them.”
Seriously, I don’t. I’ve always been rather healthy and close to the weight I want to be, so there was ZERO appeal for me to this diet she was describing in order to lose weight. I was intrigued, however, by the possibility of how this might affect my allergy issues.
I had never even contemplated changing my diet to see if that would help decrease my symptoms. I’m not entirely sure why it had never occurred to me, but it hadn’t. In all honesty, my decision to try it was not much more than, “Why not? Nothing else has seemed to work. I might as well at least try it.” So, I did, and not with incredibly high expectations, because mind you, I had been to all the doctors, taken all the medications (even the all-natural ones), exhausted every measure (or so I’d thought), and nothing had changed.
So, for 30 days, I eliminated grains, sugar, and dairy from my diet. Good grief, right?! What on earth DID I eat? Fruits, vegetables, and meat (essentially). After one week, I was off all four of my daily allergy medications. For the remainder of the month (and this is during the worst time of the year for allergies: March in Arizona), I was medication free. Simply cutting out the excess, that which I enjoyed but did not need, restored long-lost health to my body.
Why am I sharing all of this with you? First of all, I’m NOT sharing it so that you’ll run out and sign up for a Paleo diet or do Whole30 for yourself. I’m NOT. I am, however, wanting to start a conversation about the excess in our lives. If you were to tell me two months ago that I was going to live without processed sugars, dairy, and all grains for 30 days, I would have laughed in your face, because I simply would not have believed I could do it. I have lived life believing that I “need” certain things, because I have taught myself to crave them.
When it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ, I wonder how much we crave Him. And if we don’t, could it be because there is so much “excess” in our lives, that there is no perceived need for Him? There have been few times in my life when I have truly felt hungry. Of course, I’ve boldly proclaimed on countless occasions, “I’m starving!” But really? I’ve never really known hunger. When I’m hungry, I eat, and to be honest, I often eat past the point of being full. I eat whatever I want without much regard to whether or not it’s good for me. Never had I considered if what I was feeding my body was actually the cause or the effect of how sick I was feeling for so long. If I was craving a donut, I would typically eat two. If I wanted chips, I’d eat nearly the whole bag. And the excess was strangling me.
Food might not be your thing, but something is. Something is constantly pulling you in the opposite direction of Jesus. Something is stealing your time, energy, emotion, and resources from fully offering them to Christ. Something is promising you fulfillment, but the more you run to it, the less it satisfies but the more you want it. Something. I don’t know what it is for you. It could be Facebook. Maybe it’s shopping. Perhaps it’s coffee, alcohol, work, people…notice how nothing in the above list is wrong in and of itself. These are all good things – in appropriate portion. It’s when we over-indulge and prioritize any one of these things more than Jesus that we err.
There is so much excess in our lives. Too much food. Too many clothes. Too many TV shows. Too much social media. Too many appointments on the calendar. Too many commitments. Too much clutter.
And too little time for Jesus. If we can say at the end of the day that we did not have any time to get into God’s Word, but we somehow found time to scroll through every social media app on our phones countless times, our priorities are misplaced. If, at the end of the day, we can say that there was no time for prayer, but we found time to talk about our problems (or other people’s problems) with someone else over the phone, over coffee, over email or text, our priorities are misplaced. The reality is that we will always make time for that which is most important to us, and quite frankly, friends, and please hear this in love, Jesus has become unimportant in many of our lives simply based on how we spend our time.
It’s not as if we have lack. We have too much. We are being strangled by the excess in our lives, and the greatest casualty of all is that Jesus has been squeezed out of our days. We have so much and daily keep wanting and craving more because we are so dissatisfied with what we do have. And yet Jesus stands at the door of each of our hearts and knocks, and too often we don’t “find enough time in the day” to open that door to Him.
What excess in your life could you do without in order to place God back in His rightful place, in first place, in your life? What needs to go so that God can return? What could be sacrificed so that Christ can be worshiped? Just some “food” for thought today.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8
“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.” Psalm 34:10