Margarine in the Margins 

Lately I have cultivated a new habit – I bring my coffee out to my front steps (there isn’t enough room for a porch table – just the steps), listen to and watch the birds flitting around in the pine trees and read a devotional or just open God’s Word and read it. I have put off listening to God for so long that He has much to say – it takes less than a moment before my heart is brimming with new precepts. Sometimes, like now, I am stumbling forward, my mind racing to catch up to what my heart has just heard.
I am wondering why I don’t seem to be able to make things come together. So much of my life seems to fit into a margin of one kind or another. Too many things seem to exist on opposite ends of a spectrum.

It’s frustrating because in some situations the opposite ends of the spectrum are where I have thrived. I’ve typically been good in those extremes – able to find the common ground that can bring resolve to both ends. So why do the particular ones I’m currently facing seem so elusive?

I realize that the Sabbatical can’t continue forever- by nature they are designed to help you learn something that you can bring back with you. So I am looking for what or where that reentry may occur.

In that process, I was asked to state my philosophy of teaching in 3000 characters or less. (Aren’t online job applications wonderful?)  I answered it, knowing that what I wrote was so far from what I used to write, but so much closer to my heart.  I focused on teaching being born of a desire to meet student’s real needs beyond the curriculum. But still, I didn’t write about or explain the concept of “my kids in the margins” which is where I find myself at my most effective. Hopefully it was obvious from what I did write.

Still, leaving it out bothered me and colored my thoughts about everything this morning. Even as I read The Proverbs 31 devotional  for today, I couldn’t help but think about how my husband and I are in opposite margins regarding the way we approach our daily tasks, which was the topic of the devotional.  The two focus verses for the devotion were so clearly related to the opposite sides – those who don’t take action but need to, and those who are so active that they can miss relational opportunities. Both extremes produce wrong results.

And there it was – the margin kids – and we were they. My heart hurt . Those margin kids are my specialty so what is it that keeps me from bringing the two of us closer toward the moderate path?

At that point, filled with a desire to pray, again, to manage those daily tasks in a way that brought honor to God, I decided to not even read from the Bible this morning. God had other plans. I still had the Bible open to Job from my time yesterday. And again, my eye landed on something unusual:

When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil;
Job 29:6

Here I am sitting on  my steps with all of this going through my head and trying to find God’s voice in that lightning path, and Job hits me over the head with butter – what?  Why would anyone wash their steps with butter? It’s so expensive and would be greasy, but shiny and perhaps it could moisturize dried out wood or stone?

I had to read the whole chapter then, because this was just too weird!

So to shorten this already kind of long post- my final supposition is that Job is using this phrase kind of like we would say “he’s got money to burn.” But it comes In the middle of his comparison of when he had position and power and was able to prioritize his life in a way that helped everyone to his current state of illness, extreme loss, and powerlessness.

Again with the margins!

And that is when the lightning path opened up. I’m not the one who is good in the margins – God is. In my classroom, with those margin kids, I am closest to what He created me to be- and that is when He can use me best. That is the only reason I have success there – He gave me the heart to be there, to see the needs, and to pour out on them what He has given me. I can hear Him now – laughing at my suddenly useless arrogance and my little child face as I realize that My Father lifted that weight for me – I wasn’t really that strong.

The lightning crackles again as I realize that He is the one that will bring the margins together in every area of my life – to do lists included, future jobs included, finances included. He is all inclusive.

So my next question is – if I open my heart at home the way it is open when I teach – how much butter will God show up with?

Job 29 butter steps

2 thoughts on “Margarine in the Margins 

  1. The Bible does have some weird stuff in it. The well-smoked bottle is another. it makes sense when you know the context – it’s a leather bottle hardened in wood smoke until it’s waterproof. Those arresting images are meant, I think, to give us a mental jolt, like a Zen koan.


  2. Lovely. I too, love the early morning ritual of reading spiritual material as the new day begins.
    Realizing that God is always present, it is me who must put my attention there. Easy in those early morning quiet times, more challenging as the day unfolds.
    All my best to you.


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