An Interior Garden

Margin is a space between our load and our limits.1

The world, the flesh, and the devil are no fan of grace. They will attempt to distract us from creating space in our lives for Christ. How many of us fill every waking moment with some sort of entertainment? The world is too much with us; we do not create boundaries that let us dwell in the Word and recharge. We live with knee-jerk reactions rather than taking time to reflect and prepare for what comes our way. Margin will help us create space to cultivate the interior garden of our spiritual lives.

Five Spheres of Excellence

As we reflect and as we act, we need to keep in mind five spheres of excellence:

  1. Spiritual: This is the center of our lives, what animates us, yet it is the sphere we often neglect to our detriment.
  2. Moral: This type of excellence is animated by spiritual excellence. It is the life of Christ in you, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).
  3. Relational: Relational excellence involves loving those around us well.
  4. Functional: Many of us focus too much on functional excellence, centering our lives around what we do. But this should flow from our spiritual and moral excellence.
  5.  Theoretical: We ought to think well in addition to simply doing well.

Many of us are spring-loaded to doing rather than being. But we need both. The spiritual aspect of our lives needs to energize what we do. Margin occurs when we spend time alone with the Lord, creating space to cultivate the interior garden of our spiritual lives. After all, in order to develop the fruit of the Spirit, to love our neighbor well, to do the right things, and to think well, we must have intimacy with Christ.

Walking with poise, peace, and patience involves margin. We must be contemplatives in action, spending time with Christ to energize our outer activities.

An Interior Garden

In order to create margin, we need to adopt various practices that remind us that this world is not our home. It is a sad thing that even most followers of Jesus prefer to live a few more years in the land of the dying rather than passing on into the land of the living. We need to cultivate a desire for our eternal home, remembering why we are here and where we are going.

Think of your spiritual life like an interior garden. That garden will not grow without work; if we neglect it, it will lie fallow. As a result, we must cultivate margin in our lives to help our spiritual lives flourish. Richard A. Swenson suggests the following practices in his book A Minute of Margin:

  • Practice gratitude
  • Do volunteer work
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Laugh
  • Play
  • Pray
  • Accept what cannot be changed
  • Exercise

This list is not perfect, and it is not complete, but it can give you a general idea of some practices that have value in creating margin. The best thing we can do, of course, is carve time out of our busy schedules in order to dwell in the Word of God and pray.

Footnotes

  1. Definition adapted from Richard A. Swenson, A Minute of Margin

An Interior Garden