Ever have one of those days? The ones when nothing seems to go right, when you start to question the very value of your existence and wonder if there is actually a point to anything?
I had one of those days yesterday.
Confusion is often our constant companion. Our eyesight and the extent of our understanding reach no further than the present moment. It’s hard to see how some things could ever possibly work out for the good. Rather than nice and neat, our lives are tangled and messy. Full of knots.
These were the things preying on my mind when I arrived home this afternoon and found my wife cross stitching.
Cross stitching is an art, I think. No less than painting or composing a poem, it demands much in the way of effort and time, of undoing and redoing. Yet my wife finds it relaxing in a meditative sort of way. The fruits of her labor adorn the walls of our hallway, where past creations have been framed and displayed for the world to see.
She sat patiently, running her needle and thread up and over and down, as I vented the constant frustration that is my life. Then she got up, kissed me on the cheek, and suggested that maybe a cup of coffee was in order.
My depression glued me to the couch. Then I noticed the cross stitch she had sat on the chair.
A teaching career and two children had limited the amount of time my wife could devote to her hobby. It looked to me as if she had lost her touch. Really, really lost it.
Thread lines were arranged in a hodgepodge of clusters and colors that zigged and zagged with no discernible pattern. Knots of various sizes dotted a maze of tangles that seemed to have neither a beginning nor an end. This was a mess. A catastrophe. And just about the ugliest thing I had ever seen in my life.
But just when I began to seriously question my wife’s mental stability, I noticed something. She had placed the cross stitch face down. I was looking at the wrong side.
I took the material in my hand and turned it over. Sure enough, the colors there were blended to form one seamless picture. No tangles. No knots. Just perfect.
That’s when I understood.
There were two sides to life. There was a side we faced, a side that on the surface appeared tangled and confused, where thick knots dotted the landscape and colors zigged and zagged with no apparent purpose.
But beneath that jumbled surface, beyond the reach of my eyes, there was another side. The side God sees. Where the tangles were transformed into intricate designs of perfection and colors seamlessly interacted and flowed. Where there was no confusion, no zig or zag, but a complete, flawless piece of art.
We all pray for God to undo our knots. What rational person wouldn’t? But as I turned the cross stitch over and back and over again, I realized that the knots in my life served a purpose I had never considered. They had to be there. Otherwise, a color might have been gone or a pattern may have been incomplete. The tapestry of my life would be missing something valuable. A knot wasn’t just a knot, whether it was in a cross stitch or a life. It was simply where one part of the picture ended so another could begin.
I couldn’t see how it all fit together because on my side and from my vantage point it didn’t. But from God’s vantage point, everything was coming along just fine. And who was I to argue, really? I was merely the material. God was the Weaver. Does the canvas tell the artist how to create? The fabric doesn’t say to the weaver, “Please, no more knots. No more tangles. It will hurt too much. I will look too ugly.”
Besides, when it was all finished, when God’s plan for me was fulfilled and my purpose in life completed, which side of the picture would He frame for the world to see?