I opened my laptop after reading Digital Minimalism and noticed the clutter on my screen in a new way. Before opening Microsoft Word, I minimized the following; 10+ website tabs from yesterday’s business and surfing; Evernote with several windows; email app; Nozbe task manage; Messenger; and iCal. And I consider myself a bit of a minimalist with technology. This book resonated and would with any non-Amish I believe.
With all the notes and highlights and suggestions I would like to follow through on from Newport, I am left with one question he addresses.
Is more really more?
I am torn between what I think is the right answer and what is my experience and my practices.
And then I wonder about my theology of time and if it has anything to do with this question. I wonder how God views time and how it may differ from my own perspective. I watch as the people ahead of me in line at the coffee shop immediately grab their phones after ordering and start pressing on screens while they wait. Maximize is the god of today. Optimization is an idol. After all, time is money. And then there is the entertainment addiction epidemic. But is this God’s perspective of time? Something to use, beat, squeeze, and stuff? I wonder.
When we believe that ‘more is more’ in church leadership, there are consequences. At best, we are stretched to believe God is bigger and better than we can imagine. God has more love and grace for humanity – so much that is difficult to fathom. Truly more of God is well, more. And that is wonderful.
At worst, it keeps us constantly hustling and suspicious of rest. We ignore seasons and rhythms. Boundaries become optional. If God always has more for us (and perhaps then implicitly, more for us to do), then it becomes harder to justify rest and leisure and solitude. It is easy to justify more programming and more events and more things to take on. Listening becomes more arduous. And perhaps as Hunter concluded, doing ‘more’ for God can become the primary pursuit rather than God Himself.
I had a challenging time connecting and making practical use of last week’s reading of Simple Habits in a Complex World.After reading Newport and contemplating ‘more’ I realize that so much of what Berger and Johnston shared is dependent on one thing in my mind: margin.
Margin is required to ask different questions, take on multiple perspectives and see systems. These things simply cannot become habits or practices without margin or some whitespace. We need margin in our meeting agendas and calendars or these things simply cannot be practice. But a ‘more is more’ mentality erodes margin and can push us to overload.
Dr. Swenson’s book Margin was handed to me years ago. His definition is simple but was counterintuitive for me: Margin is the space between our load and our limits and is related to our reserves and resilience. It is a buffer, a leeway, a gap; the place we go to heal, to relate, to reflect, to recharge our batteries, to focus on the things that matter most.
We understand this easier with finances. We know that if we spend 100% of our money we have to borrow or use our credit card when the tire has to unexpectedly be replaced. In other words, overload. When we choose to live to 100% every day and reserve no time or energy, we will surely experience overload. Margin, as I had previously thought, was not for laziness or Netflix-ing but is wise stewardship. It may have a home in a healthy theology of time. It protects the precious gift of time.
But if ‘more is more’ is our ministry and work philosophies, it is difficult to justify margin. I agree with Newport, more can be less.It can mean less of what is most important.
How could we gain more margin in order to invest more wisely in our one precious life? For me, it is to think more critically about the gifts and dangers of the ‘more is more’ mentality and to ruthlessly deal with my technology clutter.
Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, 285-6.
Garvey Berger, Jennifer and Keith Johnston, Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015.
Swenson, Richard A. Margin: How to Create the Emotional, Physical, Financial & Time Reserves You Need. Colorado Springs, CO, CO: NavPress, 1992.
Newport, Cal. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2019, 86.