Yesterday afternoon after my husband cut the grass, I spent an hour raking the clippings. Some people might not appreciate the mindlessness of raking -- all that repeated reaching and pulling, all those piled clumps of grass dotting the yard -- but, for me, the task offered something that I haven't experienced in a while: margin, that precious white space in life when I'm free to breathe deeply and think unhurriedly.
We live in a culture that extols productivity and drive. While these both are good traits, elevating them to such a high status makes us believe that busyness is the norm, something inevitable, something that correlates with importance, something we ought to be experiencing.
But if we buy into this worldview (one which often goes unchallenged), it can cloud our self-perception. We assume that if we're not insanely busy, we're probably lazy. If our schedule isn't packed, we're likely not doing enough. If we're well-rested and managing our lives, then we must not be hustling or living up to our potential.
Something whispers and prods: do more, do more, do more. You always can do more.
I take little pleasure in acknowledging that most of my days are filled to the brim during the semester. Much of this can be attributed to my current phase of life: raising three young kids while working full time (partially from home) as a college lecturer with a full teaching load.
Sometimes, however, my lack of margin stems from choices I make, like taking on too much or neglecting to tap into those things that bring rest to my soul.
This afternoon, though, I pushed back on my schedule and reclaimed an inch of margin, one systematic swipe of my rake at a time. I noticed the shifting colors along the mountainside behind my house, felt the pressure of the rake in my hands and the blister forming on my palm, and breathed the October air.
My senses were wholly attuned to my yard, one of my favorite places on earth, and my thoughts and emotions, which recently have been scattered, fell into alignment. As I reflected on God's instruction to be still and know that He is God, the simplest of tasks -- raking grass clippings -- elevated from being mundane to being holy and healing.
We need white space in our lives -- moments when nothing is scheduled, moments when nobody is pulling on us, moments when we quiet ourselves and reflect. These moments don't come naturally; we need to seek them out and guard them jealously. We need to push back on the unspoken assumption that busier is better.
We need margin.