These days the textile arts seem to be the Lord’s preferred vessel for lessons He wants to share with me. In my last article, I wrote about how knitting a scarf for my son helped me process the pain of pregnancy loss. Recently, I have been trying my hand at needle felting, and once again this simple act of creation has provided some clarity I’ve really needed, which I would like to share with you.
Needle felting is a comfortingly uncomplicated process. One simply has to stab wool with a sharp needle until the fibers bind together into the desired shape. It certainly requires some practice and skill to craft felted creations of any detail and it is very easy to poke yourself if you’re not careful, but the essential process really is just stabbing wool repeatedly.
It doesn’t stretch my imagination much to identify with that fledgling tuft of wool. That’s really how we start out, isn’t it? Shapeless. In need of direction and purpose. Being in a soft and fuzzy newborn state is lovely, but we aren’t supposed to linger there for long. I love that the term used for loose wool fibers is “roving” wool, as if the fluff could wander off or get lost if Someone didn’t do something with it. As if it were made to be gathered together into something new.
But transformation stings. The countless challenges of an average human life–illness, loss, injury, financial trouble, marital hurdles, misunderstandings, disappointment, mistakes–they are all like relentless, sharp needles that seem to drive into the core of us. Too often these days I find myself shaking my feisty fibrous fist up at the heavens and exclaiming that it isn’t fair. Surely only a few pokes would suffice. Surely we don’t need all of the hurt in order to become someone new. Like the Lord in Gethsemane, we want this cup to pass from us. It feels like too much to bear. But we are in the hands of the Artist and He knows what He is doing.
Of course, this isn’t a perfect metaphor. The Lord doesn’t want us to experience pain. He simply allows it. He might not be jabbing the needle, but He is certainly guiding it to make sure it knits the right fibers together. That’s the beauty of needle felting. Every stab brings pieces together– and that, to me, so clearly relates to the good that the Lord brings out of everything that happens in this imperfect world. Pain helps us grow and that growth usually brings us closer to the people and things we love most. Moreover, I think it can bind the best qualities of our spirit together so that we can someday take the shape of an angel.
I guess all of this is just to say, hold on. Hold on to the good things that light you up and lead you towards heaven. Notice how the stings in life press you closer to what really matters. So many things are hard and painful, but they really are making us stronger and, if we let them, they are firming up our faith. He has us in His hands and He is making something extraordinary with every fiber of our lives.
Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”
He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:32-36