Deadlines with Margin

Deadlines can be a great thing. If I didn’t have deadlines, whether self-imposed or not, I doubt I would really get a whole lot done. When I don’t have deadlines, I actually tend to drag my feet and get lazy. That is the positive of a deadline.

However, deadlines are a double edged sword. They give you a goal to work toward, however they can also lead to anxiety and stress.

There is a good kind of stress; a stress that makes us grow. If we didn’t have this stress then we would never become stronger. However, there is a bad type of stress. This type of stress breaks us down and its where anxiety and fear live. Its where the pressure of life seems too much.

This is where grace enters, and we cannot let our deadlines overtake it. We can’t let them overtake the most important parts of our lives. If we do, then we become jerks. The to-do list overtakes loving people. I think that we tend to treat people the worst when we are trying to get things done. That’s because the goal is in mind, and if anything doesn’t fall in line with that goal then its seen as a distraction.

People aren’t distractions, and sometimes if something steps in line to slow us down then God might be trying to tell us something: Slow down before you fall down!

Awhile back, I was jogging back to my apartment after the gym (I was much more in shape back then). I was keeping a good pace, but I wasn’t really looking at the sidewalk ahead of me. There was a crack in the sidewalk that caught my foot, and I fell and went sliding. The sidewalk rash tore open the skin on my knees. I was concentrating solely on the goal and ended up missing what was right in front of me. In the same way, if we miss what is right in front of us in life we can end up with skinned knees.

People in the 12-step recovery process get this. There is a popular phrase, “One Day at a Time.” It seems opposed to goals, but there is a great goal in recovery. In recovery, one day at a time can turn into one hour at a time, one minute at a time, or one second at a time. There are times when going through recovery that you don’t even know if you will make it through the hour let alone the day. So, one day at a time is the goal.

I think of what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 6 – “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

That sounds really comforting, but its super hard to apply. In a world where have apps on our phones and computers that buzz to let us know of our next task, it is easy to live in a perpetual state of feeling overwhelmed. If something falls out of place and doesn’t get done, then we have failed.

I think the answer is deadlines with margin. We have to give ourselves room to breathe, and we can’t overload ourselves with so much that we can’t stop for a minute. When we drop a ball, we have to be willing to forgive ourselves and accept forgiveness from others. Without the capability to do that, then life can’t really be filled with any type of joy or peace. Its just a constant struggle to keep up.


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