Thriving in the Margins

Every journey has its margins. These are the places, off to the side, where we find ourselves stuck sometimes. Whether it’s a much needed break from the usual pace, an unexpected crisis, or just the need to secure something – the margins are intended to provide a landing place. They are meant to be helpful in our journey.

They don’t always feel that way, though. When I look back at the times in my life when I’ve been “sidelined,” most of my margin moments on the physical roads I’ve traveled are the ones I was so glad to walk away from. Cars breaking down, kids throwing up, fights breaking out in the back seat, an emergency call that rendered me unable to process behind the wheel of a vehicle, losing valuables out the window or the back of the truck. Being able to stop and collect myself, and to address whatever needed my full focus, was a blessing in the moment, but one which I hoped would never last too long.

In the journey of our lives with God, there are margin moments, too. Actually, there are margin seasons. And much like those moments on the side of the road, they are there for good reasons – albeit reasons we often don’t understand. Sometime our health breaks down. Sometimes we’ve been going too much, moving too fast, and we need to rest. Sometimes things fall apart. Sometimes we get hit with an unexpected blow, seemingly out of nowhere. And sometimes we just flat out find ourselves pulled over, and we don’t know why. All we know is that we can’t move forward.

It doesn’t always seem fair, and it is almost never fun, but in the margin moments of our lives, what is on our lips matters so much.

For one thing, what comes up and out in the margin seasons of life – when you feel abandoned and overwhelmed – is a clear indication of where you really are in your journey of faith.

When things go wrong, when they don’t make sense, and when they hurt, what’s your first response? Is it to complain, to curl up and give up, to get angry and blame someone or something, to pray and worship, or to wave the victim flag and wonder why God let it happen to you?

Paying attention to our thoughts and emotions, and watching where they land, and what they produce out of our mouths will tell us a lot about whether we are moving toward maturity and growing up in God. It will tell us a lot about whether we are moving toward breaking through the mindsets that rule our culture and try to creep into and take over our circumstances.

Looking at our responses in those moments is also a great indicator of where we’re headed – of what’s in store up ahead. When we see a response that we know isn’t produced by or in cooperation with God, we have a marker on the next area God is planning to work in our lives. I heard someone once put it this way: wherever we discover a weakness, we can rejoice, because we’ve just identified the next place where God is going to be bring an upgrade!

I’ll be honest: I don’t necessarily like all the upgrades I receive. Phone upgrades, for example, are a real source of frustration for me. Not only do they change what I didn’t want to see changed, but they add what I didn’t think needed to be added. And they produce more work and require more time for me to figure out how to navigate the new changes.

Sometimes we (unconsciously, of course) think about our life with – or rather in – God this way. Things are going just fine – why do we need an upgrade? Our journey feels comfortable enough, why change it up?

If left to our own estimations, we would go nowhere fast, because we would skip all the margins in an effort to just hurry up and get “there” – wherever “there” is. Most of us don’t even know what we’re really supposed to be headed for, because God doesn’t give us all the details up front. We may have a general idea about what He’s has planned for us, but the reality is that we don’t know all the roads it will take to get there. Only He does.

Sometimes we get to moving so fast that we get caught in what feels like a rat race or a hamster wheel…ever been there? We find ourselves having to reevaluate where we were headed and why we were going there in the first place. Those moments are wake up calls, margins, things that force us into a pause that gets our attention.

In those margins, we are meant to consider (or reconsider) the bigger picture, and to remember that our little journey – which we thought was right on track – sometimes needs some fine tuning and redirecting. God has an ultimate destination for us, with a lot of points in between. His GPS is inevitably going to lead us into the margins sometimes, because there is pertinent information we will both need and discover there.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, you are meant to thrive in the margins, not die there! Rather than count those moments and those seasons of pause and difficulty as detours in your journey, may you learn to count them as treasure. May you ask God to help you recognize your responses, and agree with whatever He is wanting to do as you prepare to “get back on the road again.”

Heaven’s pauses are great gifts and opportunities to take deep breath, and to receive the grace needed for the next upgrade in our character and faith.

God’s goodness is all over your margins! So stop dreading them and start embracing them, trusting that His timing is just as perfect as His ways are. He knows the way you take, and He is leading you to the gold that is deep inside of you.

{Photo images courtesy of}

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