It snuck up on me. The way that a virus sneaks up on you with a slightly scratchy throat and that little body ache. And then all of the sudden you are overwhelmed. You never saw it coming and then you’re down for the count. That was me this week. Not with a virus but just with life…my life. The busy-ness, the listening, the work, the productivity, the juggling of schedules and priorities, the bearing of burdens for others, the overwhelming brokenness of our world. I was over it. So I did what any one in my position would do.
I had a meltdown.
It was not pretty.
The pastor was there to sit with me when I got home and tell me that life would be ok, that I would be ok. And I was. Or at least I think I am.
Then came a profound statement from one of the church girls. When I told her that all of the sudden I had nothing left to give she said to me “friend…where are your margins?” It knocked me off my feet. A margin. White space. The leftovers on the page where stuff doesn’t go. We don’t think about margins. They are hard to notice. They just exist in the space around what you have filled the page with. They can be made larger or smaller depending on how much space you need for all the words and things. It’s easy not to notice them until they are gone. When the margins are suddenly wiped out then all you have is an overflowing page in your life. Words and phrases and ink running from top to bottom, from side to side. No blanks, no pauses, no space to breathe. And that, my friends, is where I found myself this week. I had no margin in my life. No space for anything else.
How did I lose the margins from my life and how do we get them back when they are gone and then keep them in place? I’m not sure I have the answers but I will try my best. (And since when did not being sure stop me from sharing opinions on anything). We lose the margins in our life when we let them go. Or better, when we fill them with things we think are good or worthwhile. We take what little time we have left and fill it with the extras of life. For me it’s saying yes to everything and everyone. Picking up work that someone else didn’t do. Being constantly available. Sometimes it’s not activity that fills our margins but instead they are filled with expectations to do and be and act in ways you are not. To fit some mold created by social media or the couple next door or even our families. How do we regain the margin? For me, it’s naming my discontent. It is asking for help. It’s learning to value the work and not the end sum. It’s finding peace instead of isolation in the uniqueness of being a pastor’s wife and physician mom.
Why do we need margins in our lives? Because without them we have nothing left to give. And we must have something left. We need space to be refueled and revived. We need time to refocus and find contentment. When our margins are filled the ink starts to run and we can be pulled into a puddle of dark. It’s in that place where we lose the ability to be a light to others. So I’m looking for my margins on this long weekend. Because when we have space in our lives we have room to be light. We have room to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the sojourner around us. When we find contentment and peace in our own lives we have space and strength to stand up against domestic violence, sexual assault, hunger, poverty and so much more. If our margins get too wide then we have little substance left in the middle. Margins create balance.
So may we find margins in our life. I’m sure when I worship with my church tomorrow my margin will start to show up again. But it will also remind me that between the margins matters as well. What lies between is not not what I have created but what God has created through me. May my margins not grow so wide that I am not able to see the dark places and move towards them and may it not grow so small that my light has no fuel left in it.