Life Inside the Margins

Hello, I'm Stephen Smith and today we're going to talk about living life inside the margins. As a child, I struck an unusual balance between grasping a lot of concepts for my age and completely overlooking the obvious. In school. When we started using ruled three-hole punched sheets of paper, I would turn in work that would get high marks along with comments that I needed to stay within the margins. I had no idea what the teachers were talking about. How I made it that far without understanding the role of those vertical lines down each side of the page. I'll never know.

It actually took several such notes from teachers before I understood. I was too quiet and reserved to ask, so I just kept writing and turning in pages with text from edge to edge. When a teacher finally showed me personally what I was doing wrong, I felt the liberty that only proper guidelines can bring.

For the past 30-plus years, I've written for newspapers, magazines, and clients, and I've really grown to appreciate those margins more and more. Staying within the margins as I take notes gives me more space on the sides to fill up with more notes and thoughts and follow-up questions and drawings and,  well ... that's the pattern of my life, see. Space is there for me to fill up.

Now that's a great way to live until life hands you something that's too large to fit in the margins. When you've filled up the page and you have notes and drawings all up and down the sides, top the bottom, what do you do when, for instance, you're diagnosed with a rare and incurable disease? That's a question I could not find a satisfactory answer to when it came my way in 2014. In fact, the only answer was to grab a clean sheet of paper and start over.

I pushed the old sheet to the side and with a new sheet in front of me, began to sketch out what life would look like moving forward. My first inclination was, "Everything." I can just write smaller and move everything over. When my condition grew worse and the complications became more complicated, I had to face the reality that this approach would simply not work. I'm far from finished with the task of moving things over, but the first thing I had to do was learn a new respect for those margins. If you fill them up right off the bat, there's no space for surprises. And surprises will come. So for me, I've started by moving those margins further in, creating more space around the edges.

Since being diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, the disease has taught me much about margins. MG will demand more of me at times and I will adjust or I will pay the price. Those are difficult words for me to say, because I want to walk to the edge and have a look for myself. I want to take opportunities to learn more, grow more, to do more, to see more, to be more. I want to see how many plates I can keep spinning while I go find sticks to add more.

But that's no longer a reasonable plan for my life. If I fill it up, margins and all, I'll end up missing out later on. I must learn to sacrifice the good in order to experience the great. Read John 15:1-2 for a great example. Life can be rich without being stuffed. I'm still learning how to pull back my margins. How are you doing with margins? Visit to subscribe to the companion newsletter to this podcast and leave comments there to start a conversation. Thank you for joining us on this journey as we go along together trying to discover and pursue what a rare life means to us all.
Life Inside the Margins
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