The 'Dings' of Life

September 05, 2012

By the Rev. Elmar R. DeOcera

On my way to the parking lot after shopping at one of my favorite stores here in the Bay Area, a well-dressed 40-something woman in an electric blue BMW pulled into the space next to my car. As I opened my door, I accidentally touched my car door to her door. It didn't make any dent – just a tiny "ding" sound.
In a split second, the woman went over the top. By her reaction, you'd have thought I had taken my car keys and written, "I hate Beamers and you" on her door. Out of her mouth spewed the foulest language I've ever heard. She didn't just drop one "F-bomb" after another – she dropped A- through Z-bombs, too. I never even understood some of the words she said! 
I tried to apologize but she didn't want to listen. Instead, she returned to her car, slammed the door, displayed the international sign of displeasure, and roared away without merchandise or a conversation.
I'm not sure what was happening in that woman's life, but she definitely had an out-of-proportion reaction. I'm guessing that she was living a busy life with no margins. You know what margins are – on a yellow pad, the blank space on the left side of each page. Margin is space without activity. Many of us live our lives without margins: rushed, stressed, fatigued, and overloaded. When we live life without margins, we are just one ding away from exploding.
It is my observation that a life without margins is a life in, or rapidly approaching, havoc. A margin-less day is crammed with running, driving, chasing, and limited time to think something through or even to catch a breath. Come to think of it, this is exactly what was happening to me, and maybe to most of you – I was an accident waiting to happen. When you're worn out, you have no emotional reserves available for when you are "dinged." It doesn't matter what the source of the ding is. When there is no margin, the slightest thing can set us off. We blow up, and then wonder what just happened. 
I am so blessed that my wife, Linda, encouraged me to go back to my favorite exercise, swimming. The motivation is for me to live a healthy life even beyond retirement. She emphasized that I needed to make time for myself; I needed to care for myself so I can care for others in return. Even with that encouragement, it still took me quite some time to push myself to go back to the pool. But yes, I have gotten back to my routine of swimming for 45 minutes, three-to-four times a week, and I have noticed changes in my attitude and temperament.
My greatest motivation today is my year-old granddaughter, my first! I want to be able to run after her, play with her, and enjoy time with her. I don't want to be a "rocking chair" grandpa! Since I started my swimming routine, my energy level has gone up and even members of the church have noticed the positive changes, both physical and spiritual.
Jesus' life shows us that we can do all we are meant to do in the time allotted for each one of us. Jesus said "yes" to many things, but He also said "no" to many other things. Jesus set boundaries and limitations. When the demands upon Him became too great, and He found Himself physically and spiritually famished, He withdrew "to a mountain by himself" or "by boat privately to a solitary place." He recognized that He needed time to stop, reflect, pray, and nourish His inner life. So do we.
This Oct. 2-4 at Mount Hermon, we have the chance to come together for the 2012 Gathering of the Orders. As one of your partners in ministry, I encourage you to take this opportunity to seek to regain some margin in your life, by slowing down. Be refreshed; be soaked in the energizing and life-giving water poured upon us by God. Give yourself permission to rest, be with friends and colleagues – and refuel by reconnecting with God, who provides rest for your weary soul.
Hope to see you all at our gathering!