Recently I was driving around, running errands, when I heard a poem being recited on the radio. Not a very common occurrence these days. But what a blessing that I can be moving around town and hear words of wisdom, written by another person, and recited by yet another person which have somehow traveled through the airwaves, are received by an apparatus in my car, and then arrive at my ear in such a way that I can understand the words, thoughts, and truths being expressed. Have you ever thought about how amazing that is? The wonder that such a thing exists and is actually real? It seems to defy explanation that we should live in such an intelligible universe. And yet we take such marvels for granted because they are common place.
But the wonder does not stop there. For the poem itself was also exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. Hard words, but good words. Bittersweet, yet needful. And I was left reflecting on them long after the last syllable was spoken and the car had pulled back into the driveway.
Just what I needed to hear. And as I think about it again now, surely that providential arrangement of events was an even greater wonder than the poem and the radio and all that jazz which allowed the message to reach me. You see, towards the end of last year some members of my family were dealing with some very serious illnesses and some of those health issues are ongoing and look to be a part of our lives indefinitely. I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with serious illness, but it can really take you off your game. Some days sickness is more than just rain on your parade, it’s like a raging torrent, washing all your confetti and flower petals down the drain. It can threaten to take your hopes and dreams with it, even when it’s not you who is suffering from it. It’s hard watching those you love go through terrible pain and feeling like there is nothing you can do to stop it.
He weaveth steadily
And yet, in the midst of it all came this poem, speaking of God and the way he weaves our lives as a tapestry. I’ve always loved the metaphor of God as a weaver. It can be so hard to wrap your mind around the realities of providence and omnipotence, but somehow seeing God as the skillful artist and our lives as his tapestry helps to make sense of the insensible. This is one of the reasons I chose to title one of the chapters from my book, Into the Vast, “Weaving”. In it, one of the characters explains how she dealt with the death of her husband. She says one of my favorite lines from the book, “Never give up. Because giving up is only trading a small problem for a larger one. Everything, in the end, is passing”.
The ideas of pain and suffering and God’s role in them come up in Awakening the Sentients as well. In that novel, one of the characters asks, “The question is not, why does he not give us only good gifts, but why does he give us any good gifts at all?” It is a question we do not like to ask, especially in the midst of suffering. There is something in us that has the sense that “that’s not right” when we face unexpected pain and tragedy. We have an inkling that this is not how the story was meant to play out, and yet if we are able to have the faith to trust the author of the story, we may yet see that there is an end coming which will make sense of it all.
The poem I heard was often quoted by a woman well versed in pain and suffering, Corrie Ten Boom, that dear Dutch saint and survivor of the concentration camps of WWII. I watched her story portrayed in the movie, “The Hiding Place”, several years ago, and every time she is quoted, or I hear stories from her life, I am amazed by her great faith and love for God. Reflecting on the source of this poem, that it resonated so much with someone who came through a crucible of such horrific experience, only deepens my amazement at the wonder of these truths and of the God who ordained that they should be written down, recited, and heard, in a tiny little car, on a cold winter day, in the midst of sorrow springing forth to faith, hope, and trust in God, the grand weaver of the universe.
If you can’t see the image for some reason, here is the text version for the Tapestry Poem:
Life is But a Weaving
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
NOTE: When originally published, this article mistakenly attributed Corrie Ten Boom as the author of the poem. That has since been corrected. I had so many questions about this that I contacted the Corrie Ten Boom House and they informed me that the poem was written by Grant Colfax Tullar and is actually entitled “The Weaver”, however it is often referred to as simply “The Tapestry Poem” as I have referred to it here.