I am what you would call a maximalist.
Now in fairness, I’m not 100% sure that’s a word, nor am I 100% sure that if it is a word, I’m using it correctly. So let me explain what I mean by it:
I tend to push every event, every moment, every schedule to their maximum. If I schedule a thirty minute meeting, I don’t like dismissing at minute 29. If I know it usually takes me 22 minutes to get to work, I don’t leave 23 minutes early. I enjoy when things fit on the calendar just right, when I feel like I’ve gotten my time’s worth, when I can account for every second so I can make every second count.
And that sounds incredibly noble, until I think about the margin that I’m missing. In meetings, I tend to rush from one to another because I wanted the former to bump right up against the latter. In my personal life, I end the day exhausted because of what I’ve shoehorned into the schedule rather than energized because I planned some intentional downtime.
Productivity gurus will give you tips to avoid maximalist thinking: set the default blocks on your calendar to schedule 25 or 50 minute meetings instead of 30 or 60. Take time at the end of each day to plan and jump start the next day. In other words: make margin.
We see that encouragement towards margin in scripture, as well. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were told to give ten percent of their harvest, their livestock, their income away. Every seventh year they were to let a field lie fallow. This probably didn’t make sense to an agrarian society, because it meant that they weren’t squeezing every last benefit out of the land or animals that sustained them.
And that was the problem.
It wasn’t the land or livestock that sustained them, it was the creator of the land and livestock. The ten percent back and free-field-every-seven-years plan was established as a reminder that they could never find ultimate comfort in what they were able to produce, but in what God was able to provide.
Back to our calendars and crazy-making schedules for a moment: what would it look like to build in that reminder? How could it change things if we we had margin? How much different would my day be…would your day be…if we scattered ten minutes here and there throughout the day to do nothing other than reflect. Or pray. Or take a walk. Or remember. Or sit and stare out the window?
What if we “tithed” our day and gave that time to something other than cranking out work? What if we jumped off of the rat wheel and just sat still for a moment, forcing ourselves to ‘fess up that we can never work hard enough to fill the gaps in our souls?
What if we spent time resting in God instead of figuring out how to run harder?
Taking ten doesn’t seem very productive. But it might be the reminder we need that it’s not about our production, but his provision.