It was Sir Walter Scott that wrote – “oh, what a tangled web WE WEAVE” – referring to what happens when we start down the path of deceit. But after today I feel the need to elaborate on that by saying – “oh, what a tangled web IS WOVEN” – for sometimes life becomes unbelievably complicated and tangled up without our having a hand in it. Great sadness is folded in with utter joy, the blossoming promise of new beginnings with a poignant reminder of those dreams yet left unfulfilled. And it’s not as if we want it, as if we are looking for it or hoping and planning for it to happen – it happens unexpectedly on a lazy Saturday afternoon; or in a joyous Sunday morning service. And it shatters us completely. It leaves us broken and confused. It freezes us between worlds. The strand of our life gets snagged.
What to do in those moments? Those moments when our hearts are suddenly squeezed so tight we can’t breathe? Those moments where we want to cry and laugh simultaneously? Those moments on the edge of reality…of sanity?
The Native Americans have a tradition of leaving a blemish in one corner of the rug they are weaving. Why? Because they believe that that is where the spirit enters. Now, it might sound like some ridiculous New Age mumbo jumbo to you, but I have come to realise that there is a lot of truth (and Spirit) in it – even the failed pieces, the painful parts, are essential. For it is exactly in the disappointment, the sadness, the confusion and the pain of things “not going how I wanted them to go” (whatever that may mean for you today) that I come to the end of myself – of my power, my strength and my understanding – only to find a strength and a peace there that weren’t there before. It is only in that place that we are reminded that true life in all its colour can only come when we reach the end of ourselves, when we give up and let go, when we are willing (sometimes forced) to give up everything. And so I keep discovering that it truly is in those tangled times, those bruising blemishes on our lives, that the Spirit does enter. Because those times leave us no other choice than to imagine totally new tomorrows. Tomorrows where we can do and be nothing but honest and real, stripped of all pretence and of our imagined selves.
And in all this we need to be reminded of the fact that we serve a God who is not somewhere else – remote, detached and distant – but a God amongst us, feeling what we feel and aching how we ache. That is the point of the incarnation, of God becoming fleshly human like you and me – God came into the world and screamed alongside us. We are not alone. Does this make those moments any less heartbreaking or any less shattering, any less disappointing ? Never. We can never be prepared for when the rawness of life hits us.
But it can give us a better question to ask and a new way of walking through and out of the tangle and the mess – instead of asking “Why this?” we should rather be asking “What now?” May God help us all in our trying and messy times; may He give us the strength to ask the right question; and may He be the one to guide us through and untangle us into new possibilities.