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Thursday, January 22, 2015


I ran across something I had written in seminary at Leuven some thirty years ago. Belgium is famous for remarkable tapestries, and many are hundreds of years old. There were large tapestries hanging in many museums and they were a common feature of life over there. One could say that the artists "painted with threads."

As you draw closer to a tapestry, you are able to see the threads, the little fibers woven around each other, the frayed sections. However, as you look at each thread you soon realize that there is no way of ever knowing, up close and personal, how these particular threads will function in the larger tapestry. Is it part of a nose, a boot, a feather, a leaf? Sometimes the same colored thread are in each of those. It is only when you step back and take it all in that the individual threads make sense.

We live life "close to the threads." We see our lives and the immediate interactions which we have (and even then only some). Our spouses and children are busy with their days and we only intersect for hours (or minutes) each day. Their inner life (thoughts and feelings) are mostly hidden from us. We do not always know the repercussions, in fact, we rarely know the repercussions f our lives, especially as they echo into the future. How do we fit into the grand scheme of things? We cannot know because we are only aware of a few isolated strands.

The Lord God (see Isaiah 40-46) sees the whole of it and sees each part. He is the grand artist, working with living fibers which have freedom (to some extent) of choice. He, however, has a large vision of the whole. So we are placed at birth and given opportunity. Sometimes He reworks with other fibers to do what we should have done. It is all so complex. Yet, we have faith that He redeems. He makes all things work together for the good. He finds a way to achieve His ends. His Word goes forth and does not return empty.

How does the suffering of some create life and joy for others? How is such suffering redeemed? How is it possible to make sense of it all? The short answer is hope, or trust, or faith. We cannot work out the details, but then, we recognize that we only see a few fibers. How are we to imagine that our fibers somehow are part of a grand and glorious tapestry of great beauty?

In the end, there is no way for us to explain this hope, but it is not a foolish hope. No more foolish than a brown fiber hoping it is part something so beautiful that for hundreds of years people have come to see it hung on a wall.

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