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In the Cracks and on the Margin

Over the months and years that I have been with people, I came to realize that there are some predictable times for spiritual growth and development.  One of those times or “places” is in the cracks.  That is not a very fancy way of describing periods of our lives, but it does the trick for me.

A crack in life is not a crisis.  That is much more than a crack!  A crisis may begin as a crack, but it moves way beyond the “crack phase” when it becomes a crisis.  It is easy to conjure up an image of a crack.  Anyone who has painted a wall, looked at a sidewalk, or examined the very hard ground during a drought knows what a crack looks like.  A crack is a bit of brokenness in the midst of what’s normal or routine.  Often it is not very serious, but it is a harbinger of what might come.  It is sufficient to say, “pay attention.”

The image of the margin is both similar and dissimilar to the crack.  It is similar in the sense that it marks a break or interruption.  But it is dissimilar in the sense that to me it always indicates “edge.”  A crack is normally in the middle of something.  The margin is the edge…it is always “out there.”  So maybe it suffices to say the crack is in the middle of something and the margin is the edge of that something.

When we drag these images into the spiritual life, they become important.  Again, they do not indicate crisis.  But they are important indicators because they are not part of the normal and routine.  They could become problems, but they also usually indicate possibilities and opportunities.  First, let’s take cracks.

Since a crack is an interruption of the normal and routine, I realize they are all around my life when I pay attention.  There are typical cracks like when the young child goes off to pre-school or kindergarten.  It is not a crisis, but it is different.  And then, there are the cracks which come our way with some regularity.  Vacations, summer breaks for faculty like me, etc. 

We don’t often see these as opportunities for spiritual development or growth.  But they are amazingly pregnant with possibility. Ponder a little with me what you might do with this kind of crack.  You could commence practicing a spiritual discipline.  Don’t go whole hog!  Set aside a little bit of time for some prayer, meditation, or spiritual reading.  Take a reflective walk.  Write a love note to someone who has graced your life---perhaps in ways they never even knew.

Now let’s think about margins.  You know you have found a margin when you hear someone say, “I reached my limits.”  I suggest we can sense the margin before it gets to this intense level.  You know margin when you can’t do or be any more than you are.  For example, someone wants you to work harder and you can’t!

Often our experience at the margin is wanting to quit.  If we can’t do more, then let’s quit.  Spiritually, there might be more growth options.  Our “margin time” might better be used to do things like relax (that’s different than quitting).  A good thing to do at the margin is to wait instead of withdraw.  Waiting offers growth opportunities.  Withdrawing usually closes doors.

I find that if I can wait, often I am joined by the Spirit…or by someone who is of the Spirit.  If you blow the joint, you will never know this possibility of being joined. 

This is worth pondering because I am sure periodically I will find myself in the cracks or on the margin.  Normally, they feel like problems.  But if I can re-frame them, perhaps I can find an opportunity for some spiritual growth and development.  I hope you can, too.

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