Choosing to Cheat

We are talking this month in church about the need we all have for margins in our lives.  I would defined “margin” as the space between our current pace of life and our limits.  Whether it is time, money or the emotional energy needed for relationships, we all have limits and when we live at the edge of those limits it increases our stress and decreases our ability to focus on the things that matter the most.  God did not create us to live at the very limit of our lives. 


Maybe this has happened to you.  You’re eating dinner with your family and someone asks you to pass the ketchup and you just lose it?  Maybe you have a complete break down at the table and start to complain about how you are always the one who has to pass everything and no one can ever take care of themselves, help themselves, clean up after themselves or help anyone else.  The work always falls to you!!  Or maybe you don’t lose your temper but just walk away, literally get up from the table and walk away and then distance yourself from everyone in the house allowing the silence to grow.  If that has ever happened at your dinner table, you know the issue isn’t the ketchup that was just the last straw.  If that sounds familiar then you need some margins.

Now one of the reasons we get this stressed out in our relationships is because we simply do not have enough time to do all that we want to do.  We know that to be the best parent we can be it would require us to give it more time, but we have to work and we know that to be the best we can be at work we would need to give that more time.  We also enjoy and find satisfaction in what we are able to do in the church and community and want to give that more time.  This scenario is true for all of us – we simply do not have enough time to all that we want to do in all areas of our live..

Let’s face it, there is not enough time to do it all and be the best in ONE area of life and so what we often end up doing is cheating.  We steal time from one area to spend on another and usually we cheat from our family in order to spend time at work.  Now sometimes we have to do this.  There are times when our work might require us to go on the road so we aren’t going to be home a night or two, or there might be a project or deadline that calls us to work late and maybe a weekend here and there and so we take time from our families to spend at work.  We tell our spouse that we will be late a few nights this week until the project is complete.  We tell our kids we might miss a game or the next recital because we have to be away on business and because we are family and we love and care for each other we accept this.  We willingly carry the load.

Think about it that way for a moment.  When we take on the responsibility of someone else for a period of time we are carrying the load for them.  When they can’t follow through on their family responsibility we help out because that’s what it means to be a family.  We show compassion and understanding and we willingly do this because that’s what loving relationships are all about.  While this is good, the problem comes when they never take back the load they have asked us to carry.  If we carry the load too long we live at the limits of our relationships and we don’t have the margins we need.  Now most people don’t do this intentionally; they have just allowed themselves to fall into bad habits or haven’t been able to reset right priorities.

If we are the ones carrying the load, we know it.  We feel the stress, we sense we are at our limit and running out of space.  If we have put the load on someone else, however, we may not know it.  We may not know that someone we love is at their limits until we ask them to pass the ketchup and by then it is too late.  Here are some ways we can tell if we have handed off some of our responsibility t someone else and not taken the load or burden back. So I heard a message by Andy Stanley called “Breathing Room” and liked the following points:


*1.  We are always making promises but never following through.  We promise not to work late, but then work late.  We promise to help out but then come home and turn on the TV or computers to check the news, weather, sports or social media.

*2.  We are chronically absent from important events.  While there are times when we might have to miss our child’s game, if we haven’t made any games this seasons or any school concert this year, then we letting someone else carry the load.  We might not be able to go out for a scheduled date night with our spouse one week, but if we have postponed them all for 6 months then we are not taking seriously our responsibility.  Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder, sometimes it just because a burden that someone else has to carry.

*3.  We keep pointing to the future to make up for the past.  “I will make the next game.”  “I will help out around the house next weekend.”  “I will make it up to you on our next vacation.”  If we keep pointing to the future to make up for the failures of the past, then we are allowing someone else to carry our load and that decreases the breathing room in our relationships and without breathing room in our relationships, relationships die.

If any of these situations sounds familiar then please take some time to evaluate what’s going on in your life because if we ask people to carry our load for too long, it can cause real damage to relationships.  Resentment, anger and bitterness are what causes relationships to reach their limit and if margins are not created, those emotions can destroy marriages and families.  Every event we miss with our family is an event that we can never get back and some events will never be repeated.  There is only one first music recital and only one final game and if we miss these events then we miss a lot and our absence creates stress in relationships and pushes them to the limit.
What happens in these situations is that we have chosen to cheat but we have cheated what is most important for what is secondary.  When we place the burden on our family and ask them to carry the load for us by taking on responsibilities that only we can meet and when we take time from them we are choosing to cheat them so we can give more of our time, interest and energy to other things and there is nothing more important than our family.
When I started talking to God about creating more margins in my marriage my prayer life changed.  Early on in my life I would pray: God, take care of things at home while I care for things at work.  But when I realized I was cheating my wife of time and wanted to give them margins so the relationships would remained strong and healthy I changed my prayer to: God, take care of things at work while I care for things at home.
We do not have enough time to do all the things that need to be done in every area of life, so we have to choose to cheat, the key is to cheat in the areas that are secondary so we can invest in relationships that are the most important.  If we need margins in our most critical and important relationships than we need to cheat from areas that are not as important.  It doesn’t mean we neglect those areas, or abandon them, but can make home and family and loved ones a priority.
*Sermon by Andy Stanley called “Breathing Room”
-Written by Pastor Nate L. 

2 Responses to “Choosing to Cheat”

  1. Naomi McKnatt says:

    Thank you for sharing! These are wise words. Our family has been through the gammet of scenerios where we just haven’t had enough time to go around. We set goals years ago that we knew would stretch us in every way; goals that would ultimately be benificial to all of us, but that would require much sacrifice along the way. Although our goals were directly relating to John, his schooling and career, we knew that he couldn’t do it alone and that we would have to work as a team…John and I and our three boys. We knew that the sacrifices needed to be shared, just as the blessings in the end will be shared. Balancing time with five people (some more needy than others) plus school, work, and a variety of extra curriculars, requires much work and intentionality. Sometimes even with the best of intentions, we fall short and one of us reaches the brink. That’s when communication and honesty is key; sharing our feelings before they spill out in negative ways. The reality is, that life is constantly changing and we need to be willing to shift with it and more importantly, be mindful of others before ourselves. If we are all doing that, someone is bound to be watching out for our needs, even when we aren’t. And often that someone can guide us from the brink before we know we are reaching it. But then there’s the fact that we are human and we do a bang up job of letting each other down. And for this we have Jesus!! He has never let me down! So in short: We need each other a whole awful lot, but we need Jesus all the more.
    Thanks for sharing, Nate!

  2. KAREN Virgo says:

    Nicely done, Pastor Nate.

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