Monday, October 16, 2006

DR: The Tapestry of Life

In every book I’ve ever read on the craft of writing, there is at least one admonition to avoid the cliché like the plague... Well, okay, it’s a safe bet they don’t state it that way, but the message is clear: writing clichés is a no-no. So forgive me if not just that first sentence, but my first contribution to this blog is riddled with clichés.

The thing is, phrases become cliché because they so aptly describe some truth. Clichés tell a story with a few short words. My favorite is a metaphor that describes my life spot-on: life is like a tapestry. There are songs and poems, greeting cards, posters and probably entire books espousing that premise. But it’s true. And I love watching the threads of my own tapestry being woven. Sure, most of the threads of my tapestry are just everyday cotton in shades of white and beige. Most of my time is spent sitting in front of a computer screen or chauffeuring a teenager who’s a few months short of a driver’s license. But every now and then God sees fit to lace a shiny silken thread of scarlet or gold through the loom of my life. It’s amazing how much brighter that colored thread appears against the backdrop of an ordinary life.

Unfortunately, this side of heaven, we rarely get to see the right side of our tapestry. If you’ve ever looked at the underneath side of a piece of needlework, you know it’s not always a pretty sight. Knots and snarls and tangled threads obscure the pattern and sometimes make it look like an impossible, unredeemable mess. Sometimes we’re tempted to cut out those knotted masses, which, of course, represent the trials and tragedies of our lives. But oh, here’s where the metaphor gets rich, for it is those very tangled snarls that hold the exquisite pattern on the right side of the tapestry in place. To cut them out would be to unravel the intricate work the Designer has planned from the beginning of time. Thankfully, as I enter my fiftieth year, I find that God occasionally unfurls the tapestry and gives me a fleeting glimpse of the right side. In spite of the tangled underside, I find that my tapestry is becoming more glorious than I—supposedly a professional wordsmith—have the syllables to describe. How profoundly those scarlet threads are tied to the knots I despise!

But the most beautiful thing about life’s tapestry is that the threads in my tapestry are not merely of my own craftsmanship. Threads from so many other lives are entwined with mine—the sturdy foundation of my parents’ and grandparents’ faith, the threads of learning and insight contributed through the years by many wonderful teachers and mentors, lacy filaments of joy our children have provided, and threads of comfort and godly counsel given by friends.

I think of these things often as I work out the plot of a novel. Not a one of my characters has been enough to make a complete story. It is only as lives intersect and intertwine that the story becomes interesting. Just as conflict is a necessary ingredient in my fictional stories, the messy underbellies of our real life tapestries keep life interesting, keep us connected to one another and best of all, keep us dependent upon the Designer.

Deborah Raney, author of A Nest of Sparrows and Over the Waters


At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From this side, your tapestry shines for Him.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger Katy said...

When I used to do tons of counted cross stitch, I thought of this metaphor often. I concentrated on making the back of my work as beautiful and orderly as I could, since I got to spend so much time looking at it!

Even now that many of those finished pieces have been framed for 25 years, I still take joy in knowing that the backs--seen by no one but me and incomprehensible to any other--were stitched with much care.

Wildly clotted threads or neatly secured knots, it doesn't matter. If I got overly O/C and snipped out all the offending elements, I'd ruin the front.

This makes me think I need to finish my novel and stop snipping it to pieces. Thanks, Deb!

Katy Raymond

At 9:38 PM, Blogger batgirl said...

Hi Deb! I'm thinking about all the times I've kicked God off the weaver's stool, bored with His pattern and certain I could do better. I'd go crazy, weaving in every sparkly, fuzzy, or fun-fur piece of yarn I could find. But I'm not much of a weaver. Eventually I always realize that I'm making a huge mess of the tapestry. Then I sheepishly climb of the stool. "Lord, I messed it up. Can you fix it?" Sometimes He pulls all my work out and starts over, making it perfect. Other times the consequences of my sin are permanent, leaving patches of uneven work, made of clashing colors-- a reminder to step aside and let Him do the weaving.

At 6:19 AM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

Great examples, all of you. Isn't this tapestry metaphor rich?! And Katy, LOVE the phrase "wildly clotted threads." You oughtta be a writer. ; )

P.S. Thanks, Eileen. : )

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for that reminder - a messy life is really a beautiful masterpiece in the making.


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