When I met my lovely wife Erin at the age of 23 I noticed her life was quite busy.
When asked how life is, we normally respond with “Busy!”, I guess it makes us feel important or something. Erin was very busy but as I watched her for a period of a couple of weeks (to be clear we were hanging out but this makes it sound like I was stalking her), I observed that though she was involved with many people and activities every day she, dare I say it, was really not accomplishing much?
I asked her permission to tell this story of course and she asked me why I wanted to? I said “I want people to see that if you could make the changes you wanted to in order to become effective that they could too.”
“Now surely your wife wasn’t completely ineffective?”
No of course not. My wife is very smart and amazing with people, but you don’t know what you don’t know. And if you never stop the presses and ask awkward questions you’ll probably never know. Know what? Know that in all the running around we do and all the activities we’re involved in and all the people we’re with we might not be accomplishing much in the end?
How many of the 50 things I did today did I actually finish? Did I see only 2 of them through to the end? What state was my term paper in when I handed it to the teacher (so to speak). Every school kid knows you get a zero if you don’t hand anything in at all (at least when I was in school…) but does every adult know that you get a zero in real life too?
“But my intention was good! My intention was to love as many people as I could connect with today! My intention can’t be faulted!” No, but your execution can be and that’s the only thing that matters in the real world. “I intended to pay Visa!” but Visa will smile and hammer you with compound interest anyways. “I intended to pay my phone bill!” but your phone company doesn’t survive on good intentions. It survives on real life transactions of resources for goods and services.
We have a saying in my home: “Good intentions are for seven year olds.” By the time you hit eight you’re well on your way to paying the piper for the things that you actually say and do. Just like real people do… or should do anyways. Nothing annoys me as much as someone failing in their families or marriages or finances due to lack of focus and effort and then getting themselves completely off the hook in their own minds by telling me that their intentions were good. “No, good intentions are for seven year olds, not adults”
I was reading the story of Joseph in the Bible and found myself fascinated by something I’d never seen before. His story didn’t begin that well for him but it didn’t end that way.
His brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt and he went from bad situations to good and back to really bad, sort of like we do sometimes. It’s funny how we tend to get so worked up about our own problems, even if we are to blame for most of them. Here was Joseph always dealing with problems that were not even his fault, well mostly anyways. (He shouldn’t have told his brothers his dreams even if they did come from God, he probably didn’t tell them right and his brothers didn’t want to hear them anyways.. If this story is totally new to you it can be found in Genesis 37 in the Bible.)
He is sold as a slave to Potiphar and becomes the best slave he can be. After some time he’s running his master’s entire operation for him. Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph who actually runs out of the house to avoid dishonouring his master and himself. She makes up a creative story (lie), tells it to her husband and Joseph finds himself in prison.
This is where we would sit down and quit. This can’t possibly be God’s plan for us, which we think we understand so well: To get us OUT! Out of prison, out of this relational disaster, out of this financial strain, out of this parenting failure, OUT.
Joseph becomes the best prisoner in the place. After some time he’s running the whole operation (sound familiar?). He goes on to become second in command under Pharaoh in Egypt and saves the nation, which I’ll write about in the next few weeks.
The point of all this is to say that Joseph wasn’t really handed any measure of success ever! In fact, he had to crawl out of every pit he found himself in even to survive. We tend to think that success comes from favourable circumstances and heaven help us if someone actually is mean to us or hurts us in some way? Talk about an excuse to throw the rest of our lives away by saying “Everything was fine until I got divorced from HIM. Everything was fine until….”
Had that been Joseph’s attitude he would have died in prison unfulfilled and unhappy. But he didn’t.
He got up, he washed his face and created Margin everywhere he went. Margin for the million dollar questions. Margin for the conversations that really mattered. Margin to become successful no matter who did what to him. Margin to save the lives of others.
It did not happen by accident, it happened by design. He was an amazing example of someone who decided up front what he wanted his life to look like and designed everything around THAT, but his understanding of margin was exceptional. When bad things happened he made the best of every situation he was actually in, not whining about being where he “deserved” to be.
Margin is this: Creating the time and space in which to Think, Listen, Pray, make the best Decisions.
No one will do it for you.