Margins – The Space for friends

I just finished reading Brad Brisco’s post where he discusses the idea of margin.

The idea is basically that authentic neighbourly relationship grows out of the margins of our lives, not primarily (or in the long term) as focussed and intentional work. This is counter-idea to the culture of the community I work within and help lead. We are shaped primarily by focussed apostolic values which gives us laser-focus on engaging those who are outside of the kingdom, but something about this post connected with a sense I’ve been having. So rather than shut it down, and move on with the status quo of our DNA, I thought I’d try investigate and diagnose why I think this idea of margins is so key.

Many of our lives are busy and that fullness contributes a sense of tiredness which needs some form or other of rest. So far, so obvious. Many people who are highly extraverted are known for resting by being with people, or at least re-charging. Whenever I take the Myerrs-Briggs tests I am always incrementally over one side or the other in extraversion or introversion, so I may be projecting my own inner sense of what is restful here, but extra or intra, I believe we all need time alone to be healthy, and we all need time with people.

My suspicion is that no matter who you are, every relationship with another person (if it is in anyway a real relationship), costs us something. For those of us who love close, committed core groups of people, it might be the cost of opening up in vulnerability when it seems safer to keep the ugliness or tenderness of our lives in the basement. For others who enjoy meeting new people, the cost might be sticking around long enough to be a faithful friend over time. Relationships costs us, and when we reckon with that, it slows down our enthusiasm to create them.

Brad asks;

What gets in the way of sharing life with those that live on the same street as we do?

It’s a questions I’ve been asking, as we are now, happily, new neighbours on the first street we’ve known we would be rooted for any amount of time here in South Africa. But somehow, honestly speaking, making the connections on our street, past the smile and hand waving before getting into a car have been tough for me. As I think about Swenson’s theory from the book “margin”, it makes sense.

We have taken on new roles where we are now connected to significantly more people that we are leading. We have a value for leading relationally, so we are making more time for that. In a part-ex-pat community, we find ourselves drawn into playing an extended family role for a few children we feel comitted to, and then the realities of having studied here too means our relational network is vast by most standards.

I found myself excabberated the other day, many of our communities best tutors have advised us to ‘create need’, to step back from our relational fulfillment to propel us into spaces that don’t yet have access to Kingdom participators. This is great advice, apart from when the relational energy you are expending feels like it sustains the environments that make such apostolic adventuring possible!

In other words, there must be space, or margin, around our lives where we not only experience rest and be refreshment, but where relationships can be birthed and cultivated.

So, I’ve been thinking about what it looks like to create margin, I know in the long run, to sustain life-giving friendships, that are more than some short-run project to engage our community or whatever other mission cliche is flying around, a sense of meter and margin needs to be found.

Why then is creating and maintaining margin so important? As Swenson states, margin provides sustainability for the hard work of mission. But equally important, margin creates space for the ministry of presence to occur. Truly loving our neighbors cannot be added to overburdened lives. I like to say that relationships happen in the margins. So where do you need to cultivate margin?

I’ve heard it said before, and I am experiencing the reality of it, as I get older, I become increasingly introverted. I could endless analyse it with some freudian-lite perspectives and say, “maybe I have less to prove”, “maybe my identity is flowing out of truer places”, and although those things are true, I realise I have recognised that space alone actually creates the depth and content in me, where meaningful relationship takes place. I look back 10 years and realise, much of my extroversion was like kicking up water from a street side puddle, instead of pulling up buckets of water from a deep well. I’m not quite pulling up from a deep well yet, but certainly recognising my relational capacity and my need for introverting margins allows me to give out of the depth of who God has made me to be.

It seems like busyness in our lives dosen’t just cost us, it could be costing our neighbours too.

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2 Comments on “Margins – The Space for friends

  1. Liam, I hear what you are saying and have long wrestled with this, being an extravert, forced introvert of sorts. I have realized how necessary it is to constantly host a dialogue with Holy Spirit about His expectations and even preferences for boundaries & margins, especially living in the apostolic vision casting, mission epicenter that we do. I think a healthy balance includes sacrifice & initiative but for longevity and thriving’s sake, we must actually be very assertive about one’s own needs. Self compassion actually has a rightful place and I feel few leaders model this.

    • That’s a great perspective Beth. Thanks for
      Chiming in.

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