Living with Margin

By Nate Kugel on July 6, 2016

In my family’s lore, there’s a story about my great aunt — a robust, young-at-heart, gregarious Italian woman who was always pinching cheeks and saying, “faccia bella” (or, possibly, “faccia brute,” depending on the circumstances). This is how the story goes, through the fog of memory and years of embellishment.

Everyone was at Aunt Emma’s house for dinner and she had the table decked with a beautiful, white table cloth. She also was clad in vibrant white. My brother, then somewhere around 4 years old, was enjoying his spaghetti and meatballs. When a young one is enjoying such a meal, there’s bound to be some flying pasta. What with all of this potential mess, my mother was concerned that Aunt Emma’s dress would be ruined.

The meal continued with much motherly fretting and child-correction. Then, Aunt Emma asked that someone pass the gravy (that’s Italian-American for tomato sauce). When she was handed the dish, she immediately grabbed my brother’s hands and dipped them into the gravy. At once, she wiped his sauced-hands down the front of her white dress.

“There. Now you don’t have to worry,” she said as she continued with her meal.

This has always reminded me of the story of Mary and Martha in the New Testament. Jesus — and possibly some number of his 72+ -person entourage — arrived at the home of Mary and Martha. As this story goes, Mary sat at Jesus’s feet hearing his teaching, while Martha was “distracted by much serving.” Martha was pulled in many directions trying to serve Jesus and the other guests, because hospitality was of utmost importance. “You are anxious and troubled about many things,” said Jesus to Martha, “but one thing is necessary.” Mary had chosen the right thing.

Can you imagine this? An average day. An average house. A knock on the door. A peek out the window to see… Jesus, and (maybe) a big group of his friends, wanting to come in. Duck down wondering if they saw the peeking out the window. Wonder if the house could be cleaned up before they come in. Is there food for them? What do I need to hide before he comes in? Are there seats for everyone? What about that pile of laundry? What if he sees that (whatever that may be)?

I would be anxious and troubled about many things. In fact, I don’t have Jesus knocking on my door and I’m still distracted, I still find myself anxious and troubled. Our lives are consumed by many things and they crowd out any margin.

But, only one thing is necessary.

Living without margin increases stress and decreases relational intimacy.  Just like Aunt Emma dipping my brother’s hands in the gravy, we sometimes need to create margin to decrease stress and increase opportunity for relational intimacy.

Do you feel the need to create margin?  This July, we’re exploring what it means to live with Margin. Join us at 9:45am on Sundays in the Common Grounds.

Details on the series are here: Margin