I just finished reading a book called the Grand Weaver, by Ravi Zacharias, that tells the story of how our lives are like tapestries or fine fabrics (in the book he opens with a story about the weaving of wedding saris in the north of India).
Sometimes God uses the dark and dull – black, grey and brown – threads as a part of an overall picture, to provide contrast and the right backdrop for the brilliant threads that make up the design that He has for our lives. At times, we can only see the knots and the chaos on the back of the tapestry and lament at our lack of control over the weaving process. He sees the brilliantly colored threads that are just waiting, out of our field of vision, to be woven into our tapestry.
I firmly believe the story told in Psalm 139 which says that there is a grand plan for our lives, where each segment includes a beginning, various steps along the way (dark, dull as well as brilliant) and an end. Each segment is also a huge learning process and sometimes failure or loss in a particular segment of our lives is the grand teacher, allowing us time to reflect and learn from each step along the way, both good and bad.
As we try to understand a God that can see the beginning, the middle and the end, including all of our choices and the choices of others along the way that impact us, truly caring about the outcome, I'd like to share an analogy someone recently shared with me of watching a marathon.
In the marathon analogy, your perspective is different as a runner and as a spectator. An experienced runner trains, generally gains an earlier start near the front and if they don't run across any external obstacles, they expect an outcome that puts them at or near the head of the pack at the finish line. In fact, really successful runners will tell you that they start off by envisioning themselves being the first to cross the finish line. If we are a spectator, we are either at the starting line, watching the enthusiasm of the experienced and novice runners alike as they begin the race, or we are somewhere along the way, seeing people get discouraged, trip over something, fall or quit from exhaustion or heat and if we are positioned at the end of the race, we see the victors, hose that are angry because they didn't win and those that persevere to the finish line and those that celebrate finishing last, just because they were able to get to the finish line.
God's perspective is that of the person in the helicopter that can see the beginning, the middle and the end of the race and that can zoom in on any circumstance along the way and who has long enough arms to reach down and comfort those who fall and cheer on those that perservere.
When we feel out of control of the weaving of our lives or the running of the race, it is easy to get angry, bitter, frustrated, to lay blame and to live in regret of choices made and what might have been. "If only", "Why didn't I", "Why did he/she" are all refrains of the same sad tune that leads to a very dark place if we follow that line of thinking and don't see God's larger perspective on our lives.
I also read another book this past week by John Maxwell, called the "Difference Maker" that talked about the role that attitude plays in our lives. The one thing that really stood out about the book for me was John's analogy about the elevator of our life and our attitude and that we are in control of that.
Living a life of regret and blame for the past, and worse, talking to everyone who will listen about the injustices that we perceive that we have suffered at the hands of others is like getting into an elevator and choosing to press the down button.
My parents were eternal optimists and always believed the best about people. They choose in their conversations to always press the "up" button in the elevator, leaving their friends, colleagues and even acquaintances in awe as to the peace that they could have amidst the chaos that often surrounded them as pastors of a church. In their lives, unconditional love was the driver of all that they did. I was fortunate to grow up with that as a key "ideal" and a model for my own behavior. I wish I could say that I was always victorious against fighting the "down button" battle, but I do know the long term benefits of choosing "up" versus "down".
When Michael and I got married, his uncle George, who married us, said in our ceremony that love is a choice that you make every day, it is not a feeling. He reminded us that some days we wouldn't like each other very much, but that didn't change the choice to love.
I have realized this week that I won't always like the situations that I find myself in. But like love, personal peace is a choice, not a feeling. It is getting in on the 3rd floor of a 20 story building and deciding to rise to the penthouse, rather than sink to the basement, taking all those around you with you on that same journey.
Over the course of the past number of months that I have been facing extreme challenges in my business life. Fortunately, God has been doing some deep surgery on my soul and is helping me understand the purpose of the deep, dark water, to use Aughey's analogy, to spur growth and stability and even to cleanse out some bad behaviors that have been holding me back in my personal and professional growth.
I have seen a miracle occur in my husband and in our marriage as a result of being able to jointly have a level of peace and clarity of direction amidst the chaos. Some of the events of the past few months have brought me literally home, working out of the house, so I now spend more time with my children and my husband, traveling less. So where I saw a detour in my path, God meant it for good.
Romans 8:28 says "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
The clarity of direction that comes when you choose to trust the Grand Weaver to guide your steps provides the peace that truly passes all understanding, even when there is no illumination to show the full path ahead.
And finally, Philippians 4:8 says "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anyting is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things.
My paraphrase: Choose the up button in your thoughts and in your conversations and in your dreams, and you will be choosing peace in your soul.
Be encouraged, be cleansed, be reconciled with the deep waters and the dark threads that have been plaguing you or those around you.