Hello. My name is Salina Beasley, and I am a recovering Pharisee.
Having spent three decades in chapels, sanctuaries, and fellowship halls of all smells, shapes, and sizes, only in recent years has it occurred to me how much of my faith has been based on religious duty and so little on the Gospel of grace.
So how can a recovering Pharisee approach the religious practice of Lent?
Lent to a recovering Pharisee is a 40-day fast to a former anorexic. I know that I am treading on dangerous territory here, and yet, I have been challenged to not only participate in Lent myself, but to encourage my small children to begin their own journey toward the cross which I suspect involves more than a field trip to Zondervan’s.
How can I lead my children to encounter Christ this Easter season?
Will my kids to be moved toward the cross by a caffeine-deprived zombie woman who gave up her morning coffee for 40 days out of sheer religious willpower? Is my 3 year old going to think me a saint because I gave up chocolate? Is she even going to notice? I highly doubt it. So how does one go from Zombies for Jesus to Fully Present Follower of Christ in 40 days?
By creating margin.
What does margin have to do with Lent? Margin is about knowing and respecting your limits. Without limits, we would self-destruct. Even too much of a good thing can end up in dysfunction, addiction, idolatry, and abuse. During Lent, we are challenged to abstain from a daily comfort and/or add a discipline to our normal routine to create even more margin between our salvation and self-destruction. And in that space, all of our regularly scheduled imbalances, imperfections, deficiencies, compulsions, and unrealistic ideals all laid bare for the glorious taking.
And He will take them.
In his book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Dr. Richard Swenson defines margin as “the space between your load and your limit.” He goes on to describe what it is like to be margin-less … a sensation all too familiar to many of us.
Marginless is being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office because you were twenty minutes late getting out of the hairdresser, because you were ten minutes late dropping the kids off at school, because the car ran out of gas two blocks from the gas station, and you forgot your purse. That’s marginless.
Margin on the other hand, is having breath at the top of the staircase, money at the end of the month, and sanity left over after adolescence.
Marginless is the baby crying and the phone ringing at the same time. Margin is Grandma taking care of the baby for the afternoon.
Marginless is being asked to carry a load five pounds heavier than you can lift. Margin is having a friend to help carry half the burden.
Marginless is not having enough time to finish the book you’re reading on stress. Margin is having the time to read it twice.
Marginess is fatigue. Margin is energy.
Marginless is red ink. Margin is black ink.
Marginless is hurry. Margin is calm.
Marginless is our culture. Margin is counter-culture, having some space and life in your schedule.
Marginless is reality. Margin is remedy.
Marginless is the disease.
Margin is the cure.
I limit myself this Easter season as a reminder that Jesus didn’t have to set limits at the risk of self-destruction. Unlike me, His marginless life, death, and resurrection led to rescue of all Creation. He rationed neither his blood or His love for us on the cross. He did not say, “I can only go this far.” He went all the way.
My kids may not notice my voluntary restrictions this Lent. They may not be inspired to participate yet themselves, but what I hope they do notice, is a more present, peaceful, and patient mother who’s life-orientation revolves around the completed work of the cross of Christ. That is what I want for my family this Easter season.
How can you create more margin this Lent?