Do you have mental margin?

I recently realized I have slid into a life of having no mental margin. By this, I mean my mind is always occupied and busy. In my quest to use time “wisely,” I have filled my work commutes with podcasts and phone calls. Since car rides are the only time I am in a place where quiet mental space is possible, I had inadvertently been zeroing out out all opportunities for God to speak to me, to think through problems and to be fully creative.

  • I want God to speak to me.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139: 23-24)

I pray this verse frequently. I don’t want things to build up in my heart and cause issues with my attitudes, words and actions. If after I pray this verse, however, I am never quiet enough to see where He points the search light, there is a problem. What if God is trying to show me something that needs to be confessed or put His finger on a wound that needs to be healed? In such cases, I have invited Him to my heart, but kept the door shut. None of us would do that in real life after inviting a guest to our home, but we can do that with God and our hearts.

  • I have problems to solve.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:5)

Along the same lines, if I need wisdom to solve a problem but am never in a listening posture — not talking with a friend, listening to a  podcast, or scrolling on social media — when can I receive His wisdom? It takes time to think a situation through. Relationships are complicated: How should I handle the new dynamics in my relationships with my children? Problems are complex: How should I respond to the new job opportunities being presented to me at work? The to-do list is long: How do I prioritize all that is being asked of me and know who and what gets placed where on my calendar?

  • The creative process takes time.

There is no verse for this, but when I receive a speech topic for an event, or even need to plan any class, it takes time to create a draft and then hone it into the best use of the time I have for the people present. Sure, in a pinch you and I can pull of anything, but our best work occurs when we have time to think, dream, pray, process and prepare. Where is the space for that?

I have made a recent decision.

Right now, one day each week, I have a two-hour commute to a work site. On the way there, in the wee hours of the morning, I have decided “no phone and no podcasts.”

Just silence.

On one such trip God revealed a new perspective on what was happening within Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane that put the finishing touch on my talk two days later. Without the silence and time, my creativity would have been squelched. On this week’s trip, I prayed the whole way there “without the clock ticking.” (This is a common phrase of mine. I love it when the clock isn’t ticking in my head.) I prayed without my organized prayer card that I use most mornings in the time-frame between my shower and leaving the house. Without the clock ticking, people and situations came to mind ?randomly” and requests fell outside the normal parameters. Prayers were said slowly and carefully because I had time.

Deliberate. Careful. Loving. Slow.

Then a pause.

More thinking. Some decisions were made. Back to prayer.

Oh, so good.

Maybe that is why Jesus slipped away in the dark to pray. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. (Luke 5:16) Maybe that is why when he returned, decisions were made. One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. Here are their names: (Luke 6:12-13)

When we are scrolling, our minds are on the scrolling. Sure, we say we are scrolling “mindlessly,” but we are not. We are clicking on ads, reading posts, and looking at pictures.

We are determining our thought life.

Even reading the bible and answering study guide questions is determining our thought life. Though beneficial, the point being made is that in such moments, we are telling our mind what to focus on.

When are you truly quiet?

Do you want to join me in thinking through our potential quiet segments of time and consider if you are somehow robbing your mind of the quiet? Maybe this week, like me, think about trying to protect those rare and precious times with the Lord and see what happens. Do something without the music playing or having the phone on speaker while you listen to a movie, podcast, or talk with a friend.

Give God room to speak.

Picture Explanation: 1. Space to make pumpkin bread like the picture, 2. Space for daughter’s to learn how to make great-grandma’s nut roll, 3. Space waiting for a new grandson any day now, 4. Space to read a New Testament in Native American translation, 5. Space to open a red envelope on Chinese New Year’s day.

Speaking of making space…

If you are interested in being contacted to participate in a One Gritty Blink Bible study in 2023, click on the Oaks Ministries link below and contact me by email. There are plans for an evening online study April 4-May 9. There are also plans for a face-to-face study this summer. Let’s focus on things that count for eternity!

© 2023 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.

4 Responses

  1. Hi, Laurie. I just read your post to my hubby. He says, “Point well taken. I can’t do that driving in my situation but will look for another spot to listen quietly.” Thanks, Friend, for the reminder to be listening to our Savior’s sweet words and promptings.

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I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6

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