White Space: The Art of Scheduling Nothing

I was going through the motions…you know, the ones I do every day. Making a quick dinner, cleaning it up, preparing for an evening meeting, rushing off to whatever, and then back home to get some sleep, and thinking, “Didn’t we just do this?” In fact, we had, just 24 hours earlier, right?

I “run the house,” am a pastor’s wife and a mom, and work part time for the Nav20s. Every so often, it hits me: my life can be so busy and the routine of it all so demanding that it can crowd out all my time to draw near to Him and take away any space for His direction.

Something that rattles around in my brain quite often is Psalm 90, verse 12: “So, teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”

How is that done? How can we move towards a wiser, better spent life?

I have found two things that help. First, I have to put my priorities into my days. I have to schedule the “God’s things” (time spent focused on the Lord, time spent helping another person do the same, care of self and family) just like I have to schedule the “everyday things” (going to meetings, getting assignments done, getting the house ready for guests).

But in addition to setting aside time for God (like setting aside time for a date), I also want to learn how to live with the routine in an eternally significant way, resting in Him.

If I’m not including my priorities in my schedule, then I have to do what I can to get them there. This is the ongoing fight to “take back the calendar.”

But I also have to find ways to live with enough flexibility (what I call “white space” or “margin”) and with enough time to think (and breathe). I don’t want my life to be blindly driven, and I don’t want it divided between “God time” and “everything else time.” I want God to be more and more a part of all the time.

Think of a textbook jam-packed with 10-point text from corner to corner. Then, visualize a page with 12-point text, a photo here, a chart over to the left, subtitles in different colors…and you have an interesting, easy-to-read page. A tiny bit of empty space, a small bit of “colorful space,” and just a little flexibility in my days allows for the other things to be processed…and for me to more easily “read” where God is already showing up in my life.

To create both these “set-aside times” (to focus on priorities) as well as “white space” (to give me some flexibility), I have found it helpful to block off time for things I value but that don’t qualify as a true “appointment.” For example, I just recently put in a couple of intentions on my calendar for things such as “Exercise” and “Call Mom” because I know those things are valuable to me. I regularly schedule time for God’s Word (and schedule it so that I have time for His words to enter my mind and heart), time with my husband, and planning time.

But I have also found I need time to sit in front of the fire or out on the deck and revel in God’s goodness with worship music or nature or good friends. This is “margin.” (One friend of mine tells me he adds “Go home” to his work calendar whenever there is a little slowdown at his work and he can leave a few minutes early, or at least not too late.)

To be sure, not every day will be a perfect picture of leaning on the Lord and allowing Him to direct my path. The important thing is to “come away” with the Lord for peace for my soul and direction from Him. For me, it means making the margins a little wider on my page of life, and allowing for some white space.