Editor’s note: Our regular columnist, the Rev. Anne Russ, has taken a week off. In her stead, we offer a guest column by Luke Conway of Maumelle.
I received some sound theological advice from a wise mentor recently at a gathering of thousands of church folks. We broke for lunch and headed out from the convention center walking on the hot pavement in our suits. It was 98 degrees outside and we didn’t know where we’re going. Soon I was wringing wet, my feet were hurting and I was hungry. We had walked until we were about to cross the Arkansas River into Oklahoma. I said, "I am not eating lunch in Oklahoma!"
As I turned in frustration to head back to some air-conditioning, my mentor told me what I needed to hear: "Luke, chill out, man. We don’t get to hang out together very often and this gives us more time together." He was right. This was an opportunity to walk and talk. Did it matter where or when we ate lunch? I was focused on food; my friend was focused on fellowship. I tried to chill out.
At times, we must slow down to take time for life’s special moments. You will enjoy the day more, even when it’s hot, if you don’t rush. If you often run late in the morning, try leaving 10 to 15 minutes early. The traffic problems that occur (especially if you live in Maumelle where I do) will not create stress because now you’re early. You have extra time to get where you’re going. You have built margin into your morning; those extra minutes will allow you to enjoy the drive; you won’t be "hot under the collar." You can listen to the radio without worrying about the traffic report. Have a meaningful conversation with your family or friends who are with you; look at the beautiful day that is a gift from God and be thankful. Pray. God will listen while you drive; talking to God is always more productive than "talking to other drivers." Besides the spiritual benefits, you can lower your blood pressure, decrease your stress and improve your attitude by simply adding "margin."
I tried this one day with my kids. We usually have to leave the house in fire-drill mode to arrive at school on time. I told them to get their backpacks and lunch and head for the door. My daughter asked why we were leaving early. I said, "I am building margin into our morning drive to school." She said she wasn’t interested in "margin"; she just wanted to finish her favorite cartoon. We got into the car and my son, who knows how long the drive takes, announced that we’d be early and he didn’t want that! Instead of driving straight to school, we stopped at Sonic for a snack. The kids at first were dumbfounded — we had never had time to do that before. My daughter stated enthusiastically that she likes "margin" and wanted to know if we could have it everyday. I told her that we decide when we rise up and when we lie down, and if we choose, we can build margin into every single day. With five extra minutes, we actually talked and relaxed, something we generally don’t do. We were "chilling," and it was wonderful. By planning ahead, margin can be built into every part of your day. Such a choice will allow you to practice an important characteristic for a happy life; patience!
That’s what my mentor was telling me. Be patient. With margin built into my schedule, I can be a more patient person. The Bible says, "Love is patient." Patience is love in action. When you are impatient, you are being unloving. I was acting in an unloving way to some of my closest friends.
During these dog days of summer, beat the heat by chilling out. If you’re late for lunch, don’t stress; just keep walking and talking. If you end up in Oklahoma, you won’t mind — you’re with friends!
The Rev. Luke Conway is senior pastor at First United Methodist Church of Maumelle. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.