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Margin for Error
Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand. PROVERBS 19:21
As a particular three-month period of time approached, Barbara and I already knew it would be busier than usual. We had overcommitted and underestimated, which we’ve had a tendency to do. Everything would need to fall just right if we were to squeeze it all in without anybody suffering.
How was I to know, though, that in the months leading up to this intense season of travel, our family would undergo one of the biggest personal challenges we’d ever faced? How could I have known that Bill Bright, my beloved friend, mentor and boss, would call me up from his death bed, asking me to come to Orlando to meet with him one last time? How could I have known that my mom would fall gravely ill and die—and that four days later our son Samuel’s first child would be born?
I couldn’t. That’s just life. As C. S. Lewis so aptly put it, “We must stop regarding unpleasant or unexpected things as interruptions of real life. The truth is that interruptions are real life.” That’s why it’s essential to build some margin into your schedule—the wiggle room necessary to accommodate immediate needs while allowing for unexpected demands and disruptions. It means framing your obligations in larger time blocks than they really require, just in case traffic is exceptionally bad or you’re delayed leaving the house. It means agreeing on the number of evenings or weekends you will tie up each month with outside activities. It means talking together about possible commitments before you say yes, to keep yourselves from living too close
to the edge. You can’t prepare for some things, no matter how well you plan. But most schedule shocks can be absorbed by building in a margin, leaving space for surprises.
Discuss what margins could do for you and your weekly schedule. Talk about what times of the year need margins in your schedule. Decide on a process for protecting one another as you schedule commitments.
Pray for wisdom from above in making the courageous choices to get your lives under control—and keep it under control.