Jacob and I meandered hand in hand through the airy, spacious halls of the Vatican in Italy. It was one of those surreal moments where I found it hard to breathe let alone take in my surroundings. Though I will surely not forget the hour spent taking in the jewel-toned glory of Sistine Chapel, something else stood out to me that day: the tapestries adorning the walls on our way to Michelangelo’s masterpiece. Each told a story– its protagonists and antagonists and supporting players woven into the fabric observed by a myriad of eyes. I’ve heard it at least 100 times in 100 sermons, but perhaps it does bear repeating that our lives too are like those tapestries, woven together with tenderness and intentionality.
If you look at the back of a tapestry, it makes no sense. The fabric unseemly, unsightly, disordered, colorful– yet haplessly chaotic. And honestly, sometimes– this is how I feel on the inside. Tangled. Confused. Disoriented. Aimless. Wondering where my stubborn and chaotic free will melds with a Higher Plan. And then there are the dark threads. The sad days. The failures, defeats, tears. More than once have I crumbled to the ground wondering “Why? It doesn’t make sense.” But to God it does.
In the tapestry, the dark threads create contrast and illuminate the light. The dark does not snuff out the light: it allows it to shine brighter. So it is with our lives. The dark threads are necessary to illustrate our story, to highlight and bring out the good.
When Jacob and I broke up 7 long years ago now I hurt with more vibrant intensity than I knew I could feel. I couldn’t get out of bed for 3 days and my body ached from raw emotional pain. Jacob and I had talked every day in our lives since high school, even if for a few minutes a day. After we broke up, we didn’t talk for three long months. My entire heart, my body, my soul reeled from this loss. It was as if a thorn was plunged into my body spilling out all of the shallow strongholds to which I had clung for so long. The only thing that soothed me for a time was the ocean, and so I would go and listen to its sounds and creep into the grip of the waves, finally realizing that when I was left alone with nothing, I finally found a Divine Everything.
I didn’t know at the time this break up was a dark thread outlining a much more beautiful story than I could have woven. A story of forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. Suddenly, I am transfixed by my mom’s sewing machine, embroidering a dark pattern only to be layered with something lighter and more lovely. The hard, the heavy, the dark: they were all necessary in creating a more complete, perfect picture.
However, I know that not all stories have happy endings and our world is full of suffering, sadness, and things that don’t make sense. I won’t lie to you and say I have the answers because I surely don’t. What I do know is that the Hand of a God Who loves me is working, weaving, telling my story even when I don’t understand how it unfolds, and I am sure that one day “perhaps [I] will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer” (Rilke).
John 1:5– “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (NLT).