Is your to-do list way too long or too complicated? Do you feel like you have to save the world before noon or at least by 5 p.m.?

If you are like me, most of the time you live life feeling overwhelmed with too much you think you have to do or should do, too many places to go, too many goals to accomplish. Our requirements for our lives, even our Christian lives, have become unrealistic and leave us exhausted and spent every moment of every day.

Here’s a concept I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around recently. Into everyone’s life there should be a bit of space, room to breathe. Some call this margin.

When I was born, my father was in Bible College. I literally grew up in church.  I heard a lot about what we are supposed to do as a Christian.

The list was long and got longer every time I went to church, which was at least three to four times a week.  It including reading my Bible every day, praying at meals, praying dialing, praying all the time, tithing, giving above a tithe, going to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, Friday night, attending Sunday School, reading my Sunday School lesson, serving in church in any way I could, being kind, saying nice wordS, being loving, thinking good thoughts, feeding the poor, helping the needy, being kind to neighbors even the ones who were old and smelled like cigarette smoke. And, of course, that wasn’t all. The list seemed endless.

One day when I was in high school my best friend said to me, “You know you do not have to save the world single-handedly.” I am sorry to say that I must have given her the idea that I thought I could or should.

I had piled so much on myself, I didn’t feel I could ever dig out. Yet, if someone at church or a friend or family member asked for my help, I felt I wanted to do that, as well.

Somehow, I seemed to think God required all of this of me. Yes, I knew He was a loving heavenly father, patient and long-suffering with me. I knew that about Him without question. However, I was living as if He were a mean Ogre in the sky waiting to pounce on me, hogtie me, roast me over a fire and eat me if I didn’t do every single thing on the unfathomable to-do list.

In actuality, I realize I still, to some extent, live my life that. It is akin to being a slave to God rather than a child of God.

You see I took some scriptures to the extreme such as where Jesus tells the disciples that if they love Him they will keep his commandments. Looking at it now and the scriptures as a whole, I do not think God meant for us to strive and try to do everything all the time without time to refresh ourselves, to sleep, to rest, to have room for expansion, to have margin.

There is so much more about God’s love throughout the scriptures. Such as, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God” 1 John 3:1.

However the real clencher is found in The Message version of Romans 8:15-17. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

For too long I’ve operated as if  I do what God wants, it will make me be what God wants and then I will have eternal life. I know the correct theology. I have accepted Christ as my savior and I know I will dwell with Him for eternity.

II am His child. Why, then, do I obsess over being His slave?  When a slave does a job is never-ending drudgery, out of necessity. A slave can never rest. A slave can never enjoy what she does.

When you think about it slaves can only think of themselves. Rick Warren explains that when we as humans are overloaded by activity, we can only think of ourselves. “You’re in survival mode, just trying to make it through another day. And that limits your usefulness in ministry.”

That’s why we need margin in our life. The dictionary defines margin as “space around” something or “an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary”.

When we have margin in our life we open ourselves to the possibility of new assignments from God. We allow our physical self to breathe and be alive.

The fear of the Lord does not make His children into slaves. As a matter of fact, Proverbs 10:27 in The Message says it “expands your life.”

Warren’s words rang true to me today. “You don’t have to live in survival mode. Begin today to build a buffer around your schedule. Then enjoy the benefits of margin — and see what God does next.”

It’s a subtle mind-shift but one that brings life and health and peace.

I’m on a personal expedition here and would love your advice and experience. How do you add margin to your life?  Share in the comments below.