Needlework has been making a comeback in popularity in recent years. Knitters, crocheters, and even some weavers and embroiderers are adding their skills to the collective creative effort to make more.
Taking yarn or thread, though, and using it to either craft something or to embellish something already made is an art that’s been around for several millennia. Many who practice these crafts find it relaxing and therapeutic.
For those of us who have worked with yarn to make something, whether it’s a crocheted blanket, a knitted scarf, or a woven cloth, we know that there is a beginning and an end. Having that definite starting and finishing point helps us to define the item we’re using. For example, knowing that I’ll knit 30 stitches across and 30 rows down tells me that I’m roughly making a square (though with my uneven stitches, it might not turn out an exact square–remember: I’m a dabbler in much but a master of none!). If, however, I go past those 30 rows and keep knitting until the yarn is used up, I might find myself with a scarf. The parameters help to define the use of what I’m making. Taking this a step further, the sort of yarn or thread and the way it is used can further affect the purpose of the item being made. A tight weave on a bag serves a different purpose than a lacy crochet pattern.
We, too, as God’s workmanship, serve different purposes and use our creativity in different ways. Today, we’re going to look at how that all relates — our mindset regarding our creativity and even our lives, the using of that gift as part of our Christian vocation, and the ways that we are made up as individuals and as a community of believers.
Like a Weaver’s Shuttle
In a couple of places, people are recorded in Scripture as comparing their lives to a weaver’s work, the threads intertwining closely and creating a specified item. Both of the mentions we’ll be looking at today are by men who believe their lives are nearing an end, and who are feeling oppressed by their health and circumstances. Their response to those circumstances, though, are vastly different.
The two we’ll look at are Job (in Job 7) and Hezekiah (in Isaiah 38). Remember that at this point, Job has lost his house and children, and even his health. His friends have come to commiserate with him, but their “help” is lackluster. Job believes that his death is imminent. Hezekiah, similarly, has fallen ill, and God Himself sends a message telling Hezekiah to prepare, for he will not recover from his illness.
Look especially to Job 7:6. He says plainly that his days “come to their end without hope”. He sees no good in his situation. And haven’t we all been there, for at least a moment in time, during our lives? The gravity of our situation presses down and even knowing that there is hope for our lives in eternity, the here-and-now of our suffering is too heavy, too burdensome, for us to lift our eyes to God under our own strength.
This is the place, though, that hope comes even when we can’t find it. Whether in the fiftieth time of reading the same verse and the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to fresh truth; whether in the spoken words of our pastor or a close friend or sometimes even a stranger; whether in a way that you can’t imagine or anticipate…God’s hope finds us. We’ll get more into it in a bit, but this is part of the importance of community; we aren’t designed to endure alone, to exist apart from others. Job’s journey stretches on, but we later see that hope finds him, when we read Job 19:25-27.
Is this even the same man? The same one who said that his days are flying faster than a weaver’s shuttle and ending without hope?
Have you ever watched a weaver’s shuttle? If you have a chance, do an internet search for a weaver’s shuttle video. It’s amazing how quickly it flies through the weft threads, adding warp to the fabric, string by string. It seems a slow process, but when you watch that shuttle fly, and think of our days passing with similar swiftness . . . it’s not difficult to see how Job says what he does.
Once the fabric has been completed, the extra strings are cut from the loom and bound off. This is what Hezekiah is imagining when he says in Isaiah 38:12, “Like a weaver, I have rolled up my life; he cuts me off from the loom.”
Once that piece has been cut loose, there’s no re-tying. The cut fibers can’t be re-fused or mended. And still, Hezekiah seems to have a slightly different mind-set from that of Job. Similarly facing death, Hezekiah’s grief turn his face to the wall (Isaiah 38:2) and he prays.
It’s worth pointing out that Hezekiah’s prayer in Isaiah 38:3 isn’t a “I’ve lived a good life; You should spare me” sort of prayer. This is Hezekiah pointing to the fruit of a faith that God gave him. He is humble as he does this, and God hears him. Isaiah 38:6 shows us that Israel is in the midst of conflict with a foreign army, and God heals Hezekiah, giving him additional years to continue living out his vocation as King, leading the people in faithfulness.
A fun tidbit: did you know that finger-weaving is a thing? I’d never heard of it until a friend started doing it a few years ago…she makes beautiful things with this time-honored technique. Search for a video demonstrating the craft of finger-weaving, or for some beautiful examples of what can be made, check out Keena’s Etsy shop!
Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at being knit together as individuals and as the Body of Christ! And I’ll also have a great tutorial for you from the talented Elisabeth, a skilled knitter!