At our Thursday coffee group today we were thinking about waiting for answers to prayers, and waiting for God to act, and what about when God doesn’t, and all that. We looked at the stories of Sarah and Hagar in the bible, thinking about how Sarah must have felt, having been promised for years that she would have a baby who would be the first of many descendants, and yet the promise seemed unfulfilled, and impossible now, having gone through the menopause.
If I were Sarah, I think I’d have shouted at God a little. ‘You promised…but nothing. Are you there? I’ve had to live through years of hurt and humiliation. How can I trust in you?’ Can’t blame her really for taking matters into her own hands and trying to make it happen by getting her servant to sleep with her husband. The wait was far from over then: Often I’ve read this as Sarah having Isaac pretty well straight after Hagar had Ishmael, but it struck me this morning that it was another thirteen years before the angels visited to remind them of the promise, and who knows how long after that before Sarah was actually pregnant. She must have given up any hope, really.
One of the girls at my group reminded me of a poem I’d heard yonks ago about tapestries. The premise being that we see the back of the tapestry, the mess, the chaos, and have no idea of the big picture. So what we go through often seems to make no sense, and we cannot understand why God doesn’t answer our prayer as we hope, and why God lets us go through such times. We see glimpses of shapes and colours, and catch edges of hope and beauty. But with this image we will one day see the beautiful picture. It’s in the chaos now that we need to trust in the promises, and let those tiny glimpses of hope carry us and enliven us and thrill us.
I found a version of this poem often used by Corrie Ten Boom, a Jewish Christian lady who survived one of the Nazi death camps, Ravensbruck. For her to utter such words takes them above the cliched, the monotone, the obvious. She saw more suffering there than most of us ever see, yet believed and trusted in God’s great plan.
My life is but a weaving between my God and me,
I do not choose the colours; He works so steadily.
Oft times He weaves in sorrow, and I in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper, and me the underside.
Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the canvas, and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful in the weavers skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.
There is something profound in this, something that speaks of living through dark times, of not knowing why, of more than we understand. It’s not a ‘God always knows best, just accept his plan’ thing. More of a ‘there is so much more than this. So much we could never know, and we will trust, we will hope, we will know that one day we will see clearly.’
For now, I am content to see edges of sharp colours, shadows of exciting shapes. I’ll probably keep shouting ‘why?’ at God, and questioning, and rightly so. But I’ll live in the hope seeing ‘the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned’.
Thanks to Pauline for the tapestry analogy today 🙂