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Living at the Edge of Our Margin

Living at the Edge of Our Margin

The world is nuts. It’s gone off the rails and it’s trying to take our hearts and souls with it. Everyone I know, all my friends are so busy these days. I texted my friends and my family an announcement the other day that I had completed this book. It was exciting to me. I was thrilled and all I get back are the little thumbs up emojis and the exclamation point. And I think to myself, that’s it?

I mean, how fast are we moving that just typing out a couple sentences to your friend feels cumbersome and kind of in the way of your day. Remember when email came along, it was so amazing. We actually used to write letters to each other. Some of you will remember that and then email comes into the story and it’s like rocket fuel. You know, it’s the space age. We could get so much done in a day and we could receive so much. But now email is like the stone age, right? We are trying to keep up with the pace of technology. We’re asking our souls to live at the speed of the smartphone and the laptop, and it can’t be done. It’s brutal.

And then there is this tsunami of information coming at us. We’re spending four hours a day on our mobile devices, three hours using apps of various kinds, 10 hours a day consuming media of some sort. That’s more information in one week than would crash a laptop. And it’s not just information. It’s scandal and chaos and politics and gossip and the trauma of the world. This is hard on the soul. There’s very little room left to be human anymore. My musician friends tell me that they’re not playing much music these days, and my gardening friends didn’t have a chance to plant this year what they wanted to do. We’re all living right at the edge of our margin.

How would you rate your soul these days? Are you happy? Are you rested and refreshed? Do you look forward to your future?

Most of us get home on most days in a state of exhaustion, numb on our good days, fried more often than we’d like to admit. It’s like what Bilbo said, “We feel thin and stretched like butter, scraped over too much, bread.” Jesus has a way out. Jesus can show you the escape hatch to this madness that we’re living in. He says in Matthew’s gospel, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt. 11:28-30, MSG). Freely and lightly? Are you kidding me? That would be amazing. He talks about a life where his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.

I don’t think most of us have discovered it. So, here’s what Jesus began to introduce to me. He began to show me the way out, a number of simple daily practices that would help me breathe again and get my life back and restore my soul. It begins with something as simple as the one minute pause. What I realized was that I was going through my day from email to email, phone call to phone call, you know, meeting to text to email, to call to meeting, and even in my in between time, my downtime, right? Driving from one place to another or waiting for somebody to get back to me. I never stopped.

I never paused once in the day. And so, Jesus encouraged me to do this, to take sixty seconds to pause in my day and just release it. Just breathe, not pray, not intervene for the next thing that was happening. Not make my grocery list in my mind, none of it. Just breathe. Be quiet and let my soul catch up to me. Just let your soul breathe. The one minute pause has become an utter rescue. Try it right now.

I know it’s hard, right? All the distractions coming in. It’s almost irritating for somebody to ask you to take sixty seconds to pause because we’re suddenly confronted by how much we are being shaped by the chaos. The big lie was that technology was going to create room in our lives for all those things that we enjoy, and it’s done exactly the opposite. It didn’t give any of us any more margin. Now, it just increased our workload and it’s this and it’s that, and it’s trying to keep up to the pace of a world that’s gone completely mad. So, in addition to the one minute pause, what Jesus began to show me was that I needed to learn to release things to him to let it all go. He began to teach me the practice of benevolent detachment.

Benevolent, because it’s not angry. It’s not mad. It’s not cynical and checked out. It’s in love and in kindness; detachment because I can’t carry the world. I can’t save the world. It comes out of 1 Peter 5, “give all your worries and cares to God for he cares about you,” or as another version has it, “cast all your cares upon him because he cares for you.” I visualize that. I see me just dumping everything onto the big shoulders of God because I can’t carry it.

Now I know, I know. As I’ve tried to teach this to my friends, there’s all kinds of pushback, right? You don’t know my life. What about loving? What about the world? Right? What about bearing one another’s burdens?

You can practice benevolent detachment. You’re going to need to learn benevolent detachment for the simple reason that you’re not God. Your shoulders aren’t big enough. You can’t carry the world. You can’t even carry your own life, right? Remember Jesus’s invitation? “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26, NIV). Jesus is actually really serious about us turning things over to him on a regular basis. Learning the practice of release, of giving everything and everyone to Jesus. So, let’s do a little exercise right now.

Write down things you are carrying right now that you would love to get off of your heart and soul. It doesn’t have to be the whole list, but what would you love to be unburdened by? Then what you do with benevolent detachment is you take those very specific things and you say, Jesus, I give my aging parents to you. I release my kid’s school situation to you, Jesus. I release work to you and my frustration and that email I shouldn’t have sent, and these very specific things that have accumulated on our souls. Benevolent detachment just releases this stuff to God. And here’s the beauty of the one minute pause. All I’m asking you to do is try it for just sixty seconds to let your soul breathe.

Sometimes when I pull in the driveway in the evening, that’s an ideal time for me. I turn my car off and I don’t have to rush in the house yet. I’ll literally lay my head down on the steering wheel and take the pause and just release it. By releasing the day it actually allows me to be more present to the people that I’m about to be with in the house. Now I understand benevolent detachment is going to take some practice. It takes some time. You can kind of get good at it over time. If you’ll try this a couple times a day, I think you’re going to discover that you really love it and that it’s super helpful.

— John Eldredge, adapted from The One Minute Pause, Session 1 of Get Your Life Back

How to Use This Study

A refreshingly simple guide to recover your life. In this video-based Bible study, John Eldredge provides a practical guide to taking your life back. By engaging in a few wonderfully simple practices you can begin to recover your soul, disentangle from the strategies of this broken world, and discover the restorative power of beauty. You don’t need to abandon your life to get it back. Begin restoring your life here and now. Your soul will thank you for it. Learn more at