When thinking of margins, something I seldom do, I am transported back to my pre-personal computer college days. Term papers had to be double spaced with one inch margins. On my portable typewriter, no less. That was pretty much the sum total of my reflection on margins. Until I remembered an encounter with an elderly woman. I don’t even know her name, but she got me really, really thinking about the margins of life.
After trying three times to hold someone’s attention long enough to tell her story, the woman at our table catches my eye and forges ahead.
It’s a long story.
She’s told it many times. I can tell from the dramatic pauses, practiced punch lines, widened eyes at crucial junctures.
It is an interesting story. But so long. She has a million more.
She’s lived an interesting life and done important things.
Now, at the wedding reception, she is seated with couples who know nothing of her and her interesting life. Her children long grown, her husband long absent from the marriage, she has no one to chat with except strangers. The people she does know are busy with other guests–happy to see her but having no surfeit of time to sit and reminisce.
She sits on the edge of the room and watches. The stories of those around her are still being written. They are in the middle of the action, building suspense, thriving on conflict,
Nowhere near the climax of the story.
She is living in the denouement.
Worse than that, she lives in the margin.
Still on the page, still on the periphery of the action, but not part of it.
Maybe she shouldn’t mind, and maybe one day she won’t. But for now she doesn’t want to inhabit the margin. She wants to contribute to the drama, be part of the stories around her, or possibly just recount her exciting anecdotes from pages—no, chapters—back. She attempts brief forays back in: punctuating an exciting moment with a proper exclamation or worming her way into a parenthetical phrase. But phrases need to end and action needs to resume and once again she is at the edges, framing the unfolding tale.
The woman at the wedding made me realize this:
Without margins the story of life has no framework and no respite. It’s just a string of words and phrases and sentences. Try to make sense of a book without margins. It isn’t fun.
There are no useless, worn out or tossed-aside people in the book of God’s writing. Their very existence, as image bearers of God, gives them value and purpose. The margins outline the narrative and give it perspective. Margins not only rest the soul of the eyes before the page is turned. In the margins we find the people who are no longer the subject of the paragraph. But not a single soul there is marginal.
I get the feeling I won’t want to stay on the sides either. You’ll find me, just as the climax of the story approaches, slowing down the action with a recap of excitements long past. Feel free to skim, and escort me gently back to the margin. God has designated it as a place of honor.