Ponderings with Doug – March 6, 2020

Do you remember your old typewriter?

In ancient times our parents would send us to college with one of our High School graduation gifts, a typewriter. If your family was affluent the typewriter was electric. Can you visualize that typewriter? In the ears of your mind can you hear the bell. The bell would sound as you were approaching the margin of your paper. Do you remember how many spaces between the bell sounding and the margin? Anyway, you had a few more spaces before reaching the margin and then you couldn’t type on that line. You were forced to hit return or manually return the carrier to the beginning of the next line.

I miss the bell warning me that I am approaching the margin. I miss the sound of typing in the office. Once in a church office, you could hear the typewriter, adding machine, and the mimeograph running. You knew work of the Kingdom was happening. Now all I hear is silence. I know the work is happening, but you don’t hear it any longer.

There was a key on the typewriters that is not found on a computer keyboard. That key was labeled “margin release.” If you were one letter away from the end of a word, you could apply margin release and the typewriter would continue typing past the margin. Mrs. Eaton, my ninth-grade typing teacher, frowned on the use of the margin release function. She believed you should plan ahead with your words and not be so slovenly as to use this “cheat” at the end of a line. As I recall, points were subtracted if she caught you using the margin release key. Since the margins were set mechanically, they could also be released mechanically. If you used the margin release key one line on the page would stand out. The reader of the paper would know you cheated at the margins.

Margin is what allows you to read this article. If the nice editors ignored the gutter in the middle and the margins on the sides, you would find this publication almost impossible to read. Margin, or white space, allows your eyes and brain to work in concert in this great exercise called reading. Your brain would not cooperate if the lines went to the edge of the paper. And if the words had no margins, called spaces, reading would take a great effort. The New Testament was written in a form called scriptio continua; there were no spaces between the words. Actually, there was no punctuation either. If you think understanding the Apostle Paul is difficult, try reading Ephesians without the punctuation!

The margin release key is not found on a computer keyboard, but I’m wondering if you are using it too often in soul matters. Let’s try a margin test. When was the last time you took a day off? Describe the most beautiful sight experienced on your last vacation? How long since you have walked in the woods? What was the last book you read for pleasure? When was the last time you experienced joy?

Are you using that margin release key and filling your life and soul with too much stuff? Is your calendar full? Go ahead and look at it, when is the next “empty day?” Margin is that space of rest and restoration. Margin is where nothing is happening. All the “type A” people just cringed at the prospect of doing nothing!

I think margin is important because that is where God is. He is at the margins of society. He is at the margins of change. He is at the margins of our soul. God is at the margins, whispering to our hearts. He is asking us to go no further but to linger where can experience Him. Margin allows life to be rich, full, and readable. Leave some margin in your life, please. That spiritual margin allows space for God to lead you to what is next, or linger with Him where you are.

We all need to backspace and create some margin in our lives.

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