Embracing the Margins

This is the final post in a series which began last October. We've explored the place of process and disorientation, and finally we look at the experience and potential for life at the margins. 

I love margins. To the dismay of some friends, books I own have scribbles and questions and check-boxes scattered throughout them. My writing is not tidy. I'm sorry for anyone who tries to borrow a book from me. But reading is not a passive act. Books are places of dialogue and books with tiny margins make me feel cramped. Give me the wide open spaces. Let your words and my thoughts breathe together.

I also love margin in my days. It seems that the kingdom stuff of life following Jesus happens in the gaps between what I think of as important. I'm trying to be more intentional about leaving space between appointments and activities so that I can slowly journey in the gaps and be available to the Spirit of God.

There is another kind of margin that has proven less easy to embrace. It is the habitation of the marginalized. There has been increasing awareness among theologians and missionaries that the church no longer holds a place of privilege and power in secular society. Where the local church and the pastor once held a place of honour and authority in the community, they are often now viewed as obsolete at best, and suspicious at worst. 

The people of the church - Christians - are inheritors of this cultural displacement. I'm not here to comment on how the church became so ensconced in societal power, or how this place was later lost. I'm more interested in the good that God is doing as we embrace this move to the margins. Keep in mind I'm no expert - these are just my ruminations as we experience the realities of being missionary-minded church planters.

Our transition from Nampa, Idaho has been an upheaval. We've moved from the center to the sidelines, from family to stranger, from influence to obscurity. There are many internal struggles to work through. You don't realize how much being rooted in a community matters until you're left with roots dangling, sitting on the edge of someone else's park.  But for all the difficulties, there are good lessons to learn.

Life at the margins means learning to build trust and relationship through humble vulnerability, because you have no assumed power or influence.

Life at the margins means learning to see again, because your perspective has been changed.

Life at the margins means learning to hear again, because your voice isn't automatically important.

In the margins we can better learn to walk the way of Jesus. When we're in the middle of systems of assumed power and privilege, we can easily operate by the strength and strategy of our environment and self. We can lose the prophetic edge, kingdom perspective, and Spirit vitality that makes the church a force that challenges broken systems and calls forth God's kingdom in our cities and communities.

At the margins, we are left utterly dependent on the power of God to effect change, open doors, provide for our needs and give us influence in the lives of people. At the margins, where there's nothing else to draw from, we must find our sense of value, authority and purpose in relation to God. We find we still matter at the margins because God still loves us, and therefore every other outcast is of utmost importance and dignity because they, too, are loved. And with such a perspective you can learn to love the powerful, too.

Embracing the margins means saying, "Yes!" to God turning us upside down, so that we can walk the Jesus way and turn the world upside down.