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Unravelling Ribbons

Feb 1, 2019

During the month of January, my circle of friends experienced three deaths. One was a teacher who was only 41 years old. He had an undiagnosed heart condition, so he literally was fine one minute and gone the next. He left behind a wife and two small children. The second was a 66 year old mother who lived away from her children, and she never told them she was dying of cancer, so it was very painful for her children to hear she died alone. The third was a 61 year old woman who had battled cancer for over ten years. She fought good and hard, but ultimately, her strength gave out. Even with the differing circumstances, none of the three deaths was easy for their loved ones.

I’ve spoken of my good friend from Massachusetts on several occasions. She was intimately affected by two of the three deaths, so she wrote to me while pondering the situation. She is a gifted writer, so I’d like to share with you the picture that came to her mind during this time:

It is a little hard to believe how life can unravel simultaneously. I am thinking how I had no control over these events happening at once and it reminds me of the big roll of holiday ribbon that I buy on sale every year after Christmas with the white, red, green and gold all wrapped around it. When the holidays start approaching, I am the type of person who wants to have everything planned and organized. I get my “wrapping station” all set up with the card table out, tape dispenser, scissors, gift bags, tissue, gold or silver pens, hole puncher, and a variety of holiday wrapping paper. Then I put on some Christmas music and start to work. The packages all look so pretty and colorful once they are wrapped in paper, and then I take out the ribbon. I choose the first color to match the right package. As soon as I start to unwind it – boom – all four colors simultaneously unravel. They cross over one another, get tangled, and become a huge mess. So I have to stop and take the time to get it all straightened out by neatly wrapping each color back around the cardboard roll.

So, this is my imagery for right now. Life does feel tangled and messy, but it will get sorted out in time. The colors will get rewound and put back in place. Some of them will have less ribbon left on the roll, and one or two colors will be gone and all used up. However, the colors that are gone means that they were purposely used to wrap their ribbon arms around precious gifts that were bought with care, folded neatly, placed in boxes, and surrounded by beautiful tissue paper.

It is hard, sometimes, to be in the midst of sorrow or illness and not be able to see it from God’s vantage point. In 1 Corinthians chapter 13, the Apostle Paul says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” He admits that while on this earth we don’t always see things clearly, for we cannot see them from God’s point of view. When we get to Heaven, we will finally understand what God was doing all along.

Another way that I’ve heard this explained is by comparing life to a tapestry. I know that when I try and do embroidery, the back part of the cloth is a complete mess. I have knots and threads all tangled together. You wouldn’t even be able to tell what I was making. But if you look at the top, it is a beautiful picture. That’s what God sees. He is the Creator of life and the one completing the tapestry. He knows what it look like from His side, and He also knows what it will look like when complete. Some days, all we can do is trust Him. If we try to understand it all by looking at the tangled mess, we will get discouraged. But when we realize that God is weaving a magnificent tapestry, then we can rest in His promise that when we see Him face to face, we will see things clearly.

So the next time I get my ribbon all tangled up in a mess, I’ll think of Martha and be reminded of the beauty of a perfectly wrapped gift, remembering that sometimes the gift was a person whom God placed in my life for a time.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon Brobst, Director