It is impossible to welcome others into our lives when there is no margin. Hospitality cannot be added to already overburdened lives. Without margin, we are incapable of relational spontaneity in our neighborhood, unable to even think about planning time to spend with others.
Margin is the space between our load and our limits, between vitality and fatigue. As Roger Swenson observes in The Overload Syndrome, it is the opposite of overload, and therefore the remedy for that troublesome condition. Margin creates buffers. It gives us room to breathe, freedom to act, and time to adapt. Only then are we able to truly nourish relationships, and be available and interruptible for the God’s purposes. Relationships happen in the margins.
What can we do to create margin? How can we rethink our day so there is time for relationships to flourish?
Match calendars often.
At least once a week my wife and I compare our calendars. Do we know when and where each other will be throughout the week? We see where we might need to carve out time. What days will be unusually busy? What days or partial days do I need to make sure I don’t schedule anything?
Prune the activity branches.
There was a season of life were I was going one direction with one kid and my wife was going the opposite direction with another kid. We decided right then that each child needed to pick one sport for the year, or the sports had to be in the same geographical location. We refer to it as pruning the activity branches. If we are serious about creating margin, there will be times that something will need to be cut off.
Don’t schedule evening meetings.
I will not even schedule a meeting late in the day if there is a chance it will run into the early evening. I start everything early to make sure our evenings are open to hang out in our neighborhood.
Take lots of walks.
We try to recapture the ancient art of strolling. We make sure we are not in a hurry. We stop often. Observe. Talk, listen and engage with those in our neighborhood who we encounter along the way.
Tame the tech monster.
Alan Fadling writes in An Unhurried Life, “I almost always have a phone in my pocket, an iPad in my briefcase and a computer on my desk. This ever-present technology has a way of accelerating my inner life. My mobile phone makes me virtually omnipresent: I’m nearly always available.”
Whenever I work out of a favorite coffee shop, I force myself to sit without my computer or phone for the first fifteen minutes. No matter how much work I have to do, I refuse to take my phone or laptop out. I sit quietly. I observe. I listen. I ask what God is doing in this place, at this time. I ask i there something he wants me to do before I reach for my computer?
Where in your daily routine can you force yourself to slow down and create space for those around you? God will honor our efforts to make hospitality a regular rhythm of life. The only thing getting in the way of living radically hospitable lives is our willingness to open our hearts, arms, and homes.