September 19, 2021 ~ Rev. Beckie Sweet
One of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, told a story about a village where all the women washed clothes together down by the river. When they all got washing machines, there was a sudden outbreak of depression and no one could figure out why. It wasn’t the washing machines in and of themselves. It was the absence of time spent doing things together. It was the absence of community.
Whether by choice or necessity, we have become SO independent. We’re “fine” we tell ourselves even when in reality we’re depressed, we’re overwhelmed, we’re lonely, and we’re hurting. “We’re fine, we’re just too busy right now,” we say when days, weeks, months, and years go by without connecting with friends. “We’re fine, just trying to be cautious in the midst of COVID!” we tout as an excuse, when we don’t even pick up the phone to talk with loved ones.
We’ve become so isolated and its hard to know how to get back. It’s so hard to know how to even begin to build the kind of relationships our hearts need now. And in our current culture, its just not as organic as it once was. It’s more work now! Because you know, we have our washing machines. We don’t depend on each other to do laundry, to carpool, to raise babies together, to meet for a cool iced tea or a hot cup of coffee each week. We don’t really depend on each other for much of anything, if we’re being honest.
In Brene Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness, she says that being lonely effects the length of our life expectancy similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Now, I don’t say that to freak anyone out, but to let you know that the longing for connection is legitimate. We have treated friendship like a luxury for far too long. Friendship isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity! Oh, you can do it alone, but you don’t have to!
There is true blessing when people come together to share ideas, share stories and struggles, or even share a bottomless bowl of salsa. Each one adds their gifts, their prayers, their dreams, their fears, even inviting the one across the way to bring their skills and stories to the conversation. In doing so, something miraculous unfolds, and we catch a glimpse of God’s desire for creation.
A favorite picture of God working in our lives, especially during difficult times, is the image of God weaving a beautiful tapestry, which incorporates both light and dark colors. These colors represent a variety of emotions and experiences in the human life: joyful, sorrowful, indifferent, ecstatic, depressed, elated, and so on. On this side of heaven, though, we stand behind the tapestry and usually see only the knotted ends and frayed edges of what God is doing. If we could just get “on the other side” of the tapestry, we could see God creating something beautiful. But in this mortal life, we live looking at the underside including painful circumstances and lack of certainty of God’s purpose.
This image comes from a poem of unknown origin that was popularized by Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place. Here is the poem:
My Life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily
Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.
He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim,
He gives His very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him.
Take a moment and think about how this is true in your own life.
- When have you struggled to see the beauty in God’s creation because you could only see the underside of the tapestry?
- Have you struggled to believe that God was weaving anything beautiful?
- Can you think of a time when God gave you a glimpse of the “beautiful side” of the tapestry after a season of staring at the “ugly side”?
We spend a LOT of time sharing with each other about the difficult situations in life: those beyond our control; those that seem to hold us hostage; the ones that seem larger than our ability to influence or resolve; and even those difficult situations we have participated in fashioning. We are imperfect and fallible human beings, with whom God has entrusted the care of creation.
Our scripture text reminds us that God created human beings and gave them/us “dominion” over all other creatures and over the earth itself. The context of this word means that WE are charged to preserve and protect all that is precious in God’s sight. We are to be faithful stewards, good managers of creation, so that future generations can also enjoy all of God’s gifts. For, you see, all of creation is inter-woven, inter-related, inter-connected, so that we might all thrive together, OR suffer together, AND heal together. In anything that is woven, if one thread is pulled out, the beauty of the entire tapestry is altered. Likewise, if a flaw, or tear, hole or rip is repaired, the beauty of the entire tapestry is enhanced.
In the midst of the scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments we find that “Our stewardship under God implies that we are morally accountable to [God] for treating creation in a manner that best serves the objectives of [God’s reign]; but both moral accountability and dominion over the earth depend on the [human’s] freedom to choose.”[i] And we are also reminded that within that state of freedom comes the opportunity to either destroy or heal facets of creation.
As a family of faith, we are particularly good at expressing our care for one another through prayer – seeking healing as we become aware of brokenness. We even pray that we will be vehicles through which God will offer encouragement, peace of mind, messages of hope. But I must pause and wonder if we are as attuned to praying for the healing of non-human parts of creation. Currently, the fires and storms and floods and wars and continued harvesting of earth’s resources have caused scars upon the earth. And those scars affect all related to those places and habitats. Have we asked God to heal these scarred patches of earth? Have we sought the guidance of the Spirit in how we can contribute to that healing process? Have we considered how we might avoid creating the conditions which make the earth more vulnerable to disaster? Do we trust our Creating, Weaver God to guide and equip us to partner with God to redeem and restore even the most broken and hopeless situations? We may only have had a glimpse or vision of what the upper-side of God’s tapestry looks like. So, our hope from the underside is in the trust that there is a beautiful side being created by the Master Weaver who knows, loves, and cares for all of creation.
Our challenge today is to be more intentional about three things:
- Praying for the healing of creation;
- Intentionally living into our responsibility of being more faithful stewards of all that God has entrusted to us; and,
- Growing in our appreciation for the tie that binds us to God, to one another, and to all of creation.
[i] Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, Grand Rapids: Action Institute ©2007.