The Book in Three Sentences
In the name of progress, Western culture encourages us to live without margin: emotionally, physically, financially, and time-wise. Marginless living, however, tends to cause us deep pain, isolation, and harm. Yet if we allow God to replenish our emotional, physical, financial, and time reserves to relieve our overloaded lives, we will experience great health benefits across the board.
My Favorite Quotes From ‘Margin’
Read below my favorite quotes from Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. Note: Page numbers are in parentheses.
- “No one has time to listen, let alone love” (27).
- “Margin … knows how to nurture relationship. In fact, margin exists for relationship” (31).
- “What if … we were to begin measuring our progress not by our wealth but by our virtue; not by our education but by our humility; and not by our power but by our meekness?” (33).
- “Progress is a saboteur of margin” (42).
“Stress is not the circumstance, it is our response to the circumstance” (44).
- “Different kinds of stress exist: stress, distress, and eustress. Stress is neutral, distress is negative stress, and eustress is positive stress. Eustress helps us get ready for an important task; distress often results in negative outcomes” (45).
- “It is obviously much easier for a hard-working peasant to keep his mind attuned to the divine than for a strained office worker” (47), quoting E.F. Schumacher, Good Work, 25.
- “Depression is the feeling that life is painful and hopeless. Anxiety is the looming belief that circumstances will imminently become painful and hopeless” (48).
- “It is fitting that a society with urgency as its emblem should have tranquilizers as its addiction” (112).
- “The clock and the Christ are not close friends” (121).
- “Everything we own owns us” (124).
- “Perhaps if we had fewer things we might have more time” (124).
- “A man from Mali, West Africa, told [Swenson]: ‘You Americans have all the watches, but we have all the time’” (125).
- “When the activity is over, remember. Tell stories. Tell them again. And again. Frame a picture. Mount a fish. Make a special effort to remember the funny happenings. With the gift of remembrance, we don’t always have to do a lot. We can do a little and remember it a lot” (127).
- “The more important the decision, the longer the time you should take to make it” (127).
- “If God were our appointment secretary, would He schedule us for every minute of every day?” (128).
- “Being useful to God and other people is a large part of what life is meant to be. And yet ‘usefulness is nine-tenths availability’” (128), quoting Bruce Larson, 114.
“Content yourself with what God sends your way and live a simple life of righteousness. Then God, honored by your devotion, will in turn tend to both your margin and your harvest” (141).
- “The cultivation of needs is … the antithesis of freedom. Every increase of needs tends to increase one’s dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control” (141), quoting E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful, 33.
- “God is honored by funnels and dishonored by sponges. Be a conduit of His blessing, not a dead end” (144).
- “Contentment is willing to lend support to margin” (151).
- “The more we choose contentment, the more God sets us free” (153).
- With regard to Western cultures: “We have leisure but little rest” (194).
- “Although progress may not approve, it is okay to rest physically” (198).
- “Near the end of his reign, England’s King George V was asked what he would do if he could do whatever he pleased. ‘He replied that he would take his biggest car and drive and drive as far as it would take him. There he would find a little farmhouse, and in the farmhouse there would be a small, clean, whitewashed room, furnished only with a bed and an open fire. He would lie down on the bed, and lying so, alone in the small, clean room, he would look at the glowing coals of the fire, and the flames playing blue about them—and so he would rest. For once in a royal lifetime he would rest’” (199), quoting Marjorie Barstow Greenbie, 57.
- “Remembering, worshiping, and resting are acts of contemplation. Yet churches today, for the most part, have not developed a practical theology of contemplation nor a practical theology of rest. The Sabbath rest is an opportunity for contemplation, an opportunity to remember our roots” (201).
“It is imperative, in such an age as ours, that we rest spiritually” (203).
- “When life is over and we receive our report card, it will have only one category—relationship. There will be three lines: How did we relate to God? How did we relate to ourselves? How did we relate to others?” (207–208).
- “We know that relationship is so important to God because He does all His work there. That is why progress missed Him.” (208).
- “Progress kept telling us to search for buried treasure inside bank vaults, while all the time God had it buried in the heart of our neighbor” (208).
- “God has shown us the road to health, the path to blessing—it is the way of relationship. Do you see now why careers, degrees, and estates can never quite get the job done? Somehow we just keep taking our expensive automobiles to our posh offices to make another hundred thousand dollars, while all the time our relationships vaporize before our eyes and our loneliness deepens. // But we are not helpless. Progress does not own us. We do not have to let history ‘happen to us.’ We are free to change. And God is still interested in lending a hand” (209–210).
- “With money, the more you hoard, the richer you become. But with love, the more you spend, the richer you become” (211).
- “Spending and receiving love is the best part of kingdom work” (211).
This is a list of authors, books, and concepts mentioned in Margin that might be useful for future reading.
- E.F. Schumacher, Good Work (New York: Harper & Row, 1979).
- E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (New York: Harper & Row, 1973).
- Bruce Larson, There’s a Lot More to Health Than Not Being Sick (Waco, TX: Word, 1981).
- Marjorie Barstow Greenbie, In Quest of Contentment (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1936).
I highly recommend Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2004). A disciple of Jesus and a medical doctor, Swenson offers a unique perspective on holistic health. He’s remarkably good at writing for having a non-literary career as a doctor, which illustrates the fruit of a margin-filled life. For those who feel like they can never catch up, this book reveals how you might be chasing after a misguided goal. Find solace in the simple life—a life filled with margin in four major areas.
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