Kyrgyzstan, and indeed much of Central Asia, is notable for its embroideries and tapestries. On the left, a hanging that was in my room at Ashu. The overall effect was beautiful - so colourful, well-ordered and natural. Up close, however, the handiwork was quite flawed: stray threads, coarse stitches, stained and dirty. It had clearly been utilised for practical purposes in the past - a bed or table covering, perhaps. If I were to focus on the small mistakes in the broad tapestry, I believe I wouldn't enjoy looking at it half so much. I wouldn't get a sense of the intent of the woman who made it, or an understanding of its practical purpose, or the feel of mellow mountain fruitfulness that pervades the whole.
Right now, I am staring intently at the inexpert, grubby stitches of which my last few weeks have been composed; a childish needle has woven doubt, insecurity and selfishness into the cloth. Where there ought to be a pattern of prayer and reflection, there is instead a crazy patchwork of half-finished tasks and unforeseen difficulties and unconfessed sins. Surely God called me to Bishkek - so where's the order or beauty in being here? I'd like to see it right now, please - I'd like to see the person whose life will be changed because I'm here, or the saintly improvements in my character.
It's a worn metaphor - life as a tapestry - but on this occasion at least, I like it. I like the imagery of God as a master potter, a master weaver. Yes, a minute inspection of the threads will reveal flaws in unflattering relief, but it's a mistake to think that those flaws are fatal. My human (feminine?) tendency is to magnify and inspect the flaws to the exclusion of everything else and get bogged down in the hopelessness of fixing them. And yet, I trust that a holistic view of this tapestry will reveal a life rooted and firmly planted in the promises of God, and that the whole will cohere in a way that reflects the inexpressible perfection of His plan. Not only will it cohere, but it will weave in and out with other lives in a way that complements both theirs and mine.
In the time-honour'd manner of spilling one's guts, I ought to add in the course of writing I feel that perspective - bright hope - has been restored to me. The object of that hope is constant, unfading, glorious; I may be inconstant, but He is never. And He has plans for me - plans for a hope and a future. So, I pack away my magnifying glass; I fold my hands and compose my heart and pray again with thanksgiving.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fulness of joy. Ps 16:11