I am not the kind of person who likes to run on empty. When my fuel gage tells me the tank of my car is half full, I start looking for an opportunity to fill it up. I like a full tank because you just don’t know when you might wish you had filled up when you had the chance.
Other folks seem quite fine with running on empty. The little light on the fuel gage might be lit but it doesn’t bother them, they know exactly how much longer they can run their errands around town before their SUV sputters and quits. Just before it does, they dash into the nearest fuel station, pump in ten bucks worth of fuel and do it all over again. I just can’t live with that kind of terror. Don’t ask me to ride with you if your fuel light is lit.
Drinking water is probably more an issue with me. I probably don’t drink enough water. Really, who can drink all the water we are “supposed” to drink? I am amazed how much water it requires to live in health. If I drank the recommended amount of water I am supposed to drink I wonder how I would get anything done between urgent visits to certain facilities.
Most of us are like me on the subject of drinking water. Ask any medical first responder about what they check first when they seek to stabilize someone who has collapsed. More often than not, a lack of adequate hydration makes whatever is wrong with the patient worse and fluids are immediately administered to help the patient recover.
What does a full tank of fuel and drinking enough water have in common? It is about margins. Most of us tend to run on too thin of margins. Be it adequate sleep, managing our finances, spending time with people important to us or many other aspects of life, our “normal” is to live on the ragged edge of adequacy.
Have you obsered how different people respond to crisis in their lives? Some seem to fall apart and live in despair. Others, seem to dig deep, weather the storm and survive. The difference between the two? Margin. Survivors have tipped the balance in their favor by creating enough margin in their lives to absorb the unexpected bump in the road wether it be a car repair, a trip to the emergency room, or bad news that hits us emotionally.
Fortunately building margin into our lives is not difficult. Drink more water. Instead of partially filling your tank ten times, fill it completely once. Save a few dollars for an emergency fund to give you capacity to respond to unexpected expenses.
The subject of margin also applies to our emotional and spiritual lives. Things like church attendance, Bible reading, prayer, healthy and supportive relationships are all part of creating a margin of resource in our lives that keeps us afloat during difficult emotional seasons.
One of the most loved passages of scripture in the entire Bible is Psalm 23. Read for yourself and note how the psalmists’ relationship with the “shepherd” prepares him for the difficulties of life:
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord
Before the “valley of the shadow of death” and “the presence of my enemies” there is the margin building of “green pastures”, “still waters”, “paths of righteousness.”
So I encourage you to spend a little time in prayer, more time in your Bible, set aside a few dollars for a rainy day and for my sake, go fill your gas tank all the way.
Rev. Stephen S. Brown is pastor at Kenai New Life Assembly of God, 209 Princess Street in Kenai.