Wednesday, March 4, 2009

tangles untangled

For a long time now - just over a year, to be exact, since I started this whole blogging business, and forcibly ripped my brain from the murkiness of breastfeeding and babies into the competing demands of childrearing and ministry - I've been struggling to keep the different strands of research projects and family needs and books to read and household tasks and ministry responsibilities separate in my head.

Like a tangled ball of yarn, they knot themselves around each other, a mess of incomplete ideas and unmet responsibilities and unfinished tasks, and sit somewhere inside me, an undigested mass in my gut, pressing upwards on my diaphragm, pressing on my lungs, making it hard to breathe.

I pray for God to untangle the ball. Occasionally, I tease a thread loose and pray about it. God responds, and unknots a strand or two, relieves the tightness and anxiety, and replaces it with his peace. But I glance away from him, and before I know it, another pressing responsibility, another incomplete project, another forgotten task tangles itself into the ball, and there it is again, cutting off my breath. Am I the only one who feels this way?

Some weeks ago, as I sat on my rock and prayed, an amazing thing happened: my perspective shifted sideways and I saw things differently.

The tangled ball of yarn was still there - the threads of ideas half-examined and tasks half-done and topics half-tackled and responsibilities half-met and books half-read and people half-cared for. But the threads were no longer tangled in my mind's eye.

Each thread lay, a separate and glowing strand, weaving over and under one another, but without knots or tangles. Some strands had been laid aside for a time, to be picked up later; others ended or began at certain points; still others lay in my hand, being woven into the pattern. Not a mess of knotted and tangled threads, but a neat bundle of coloured yarn, with each strand finding its place in the whole.

What this means for me, perfectionist and control-freak that I am, is that I don't need to keep track of every thread. I can lay one down and pick it up again or not as the case may be. My life doesn't depend on my ability to keep things organised, understood, and under control. Thoughts come and thoughts go, responsibilities are taken up and laid aside, projects are tackled and abandoned, but I can trust God to take care of the whole.

And if I (speaking sententiously and in cliches now!) am God's tapestry, and he is the weaver, who am I to think I can keep every strand clear and distinct and in my sight at all times? My job is to be faithful to God's word and to the people he has given me to care for, but only God sees every motive and perceives every thought and watches over every responsibility. I make plans, but he is the master designer who shapes my days (Prov 16:9, 19:21).

When I look back over my life from the perspective of heaven, I will see how every thought, every task, every responsibility was taken and used by him for the glory of his Son. And that is enough for me. That is knowledge too wonderful for me.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

images are from stock.xchng


charissa said...

A great image Jean. I often feel all tangled up and so often it is because of my wrong thinking and expectations.

Jean said...

Thanks, Charissa, I'm glad you found it helpful. Seems we're both checking the computer at the same time!!

Meredith said...

Let your year begin!

Jean said...

It has, Meredith, well and truly. Believe me! Lots of this is stuff sorted through weeks ago - just appearing now I've had time to get my thoughts together and on line.

Sharon said...

Mmm. This week my BSF class was reading through Exodus 2:1-10. Can you imagine Jochebed's thoughts as she made that papyrus reed basket for her tiny little boy? Yet God had the whole situation under His unswerving hand the entire time.

It's just the same for you, Jean!

~ Sharon

Jean said...

Thanks, Sharon!

The Idle Introvert said...

Jean, this post described me EXACTLY.

I experience so much anxiety each day from trying to keep on track of the many different 'threads' in my life, and feel like a failure a lot for being unable to maintain constant vigilance.

My 'ideas half-examined and tasks half-done and topics half-tackled and responsibilities half-met and books half-read and people half-cared for' often keep me awake at night. I feel an incredible burden to be/do/have it all.

Thanks for reminding us to 'trust God to take care of the whole'.

Today I will breath deeply as I pray that God will bring the most pressing tasks to my attention, and that I will be obedient to His voice. I will also pray that I will "rest easy", allowing Him to take care of everything else.

Jean said...

I'm glad it encouraged you, Idle Introvert. This is one of those posts you write and put out there, hoping people won't think you're too much of an idiot for being so introspective, but trusting that it might encourage someone else who feels the same way. So I'm so glad you were helped by it to trust God. Like you, I have to keep reminding myself that he is the one in control, not me!