2016-06-30
A friend recently told me about a popular pastime among some of the young women who attend her daughter’s college. Experienced knitters, they will go to a thrift store and look for a sweater that is past its prime and unravel the yarn to make something new. The practice is known as “frogging,” from the words “rip it, rip it.” In the process, something old and shopworn sees new life in unexpected forms.

I thought of frogging when I recently reread Psalm 139, that beautiful paean to the intricate ways in which God has fashioned the human form. The Psalm contains one of my favorite Bible verses: “For you yourself created my inmost parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” It’s always nice to find a proof-text that nicely fits your life, and so I enjoy the fact that here, beyond any doubt, we have conclusive proof that God is a knitter. Now there’s a verse that makes knitters like me happy.

We can surmise quite a bit about the workings of God from these simple lines. Metaphors like this help us glimpse the mysterious workings of the sacred—and while God is beyond gender, surely a knitting God is best expressed in feminine terms.

God clearly has great patience, for knitting is a slow process. We know that God loves beauty and color and texture, and that she is a creator able to weave something lovely out of even the most ordinary of materials. We know that God lavishes time and care on making things for those she loves. We know that God can tenderly and gently repair the unraveled pieces of her creation, ever so carefully picking up dropped stitches to repair the damaged parts.

And most important of all, we can deduce that a God Who Knits is a God who loves order and pattern. Knitters know that one of the pleasures of figuring out a complicated knitting pattern is the discovery of order in what looks like chaos. You pick up the instructions and at first they look incomprehensible. The symbols are complicated, and even after you begin knitting the pattern is often elusive. It can take many rows and many hours of work before you can finally see the beauty begin to emerge. Ah, that’s how it’s supposed to look, you think, and even then you must wait much longer for the full beauty of the pattern to appear.

Contrast this to real life. Most of the time we don’t know what the pattern of our lives is. We muddle along from day to day, bouncing from one event to the next, our lives shaped by a seemingly random set of circumstances. You happen to meet a young man at a party in college, and he ends up becoming your husband. You make a wrong turn onto a street and end up with injuries that make you lose your job. At conception your child has a single chromosome go awry, and the rest of her life is changed. Much of the time, our lives seem like an endless series of random events.

The God Who Knits has a different perspective. After all, she has been knitting people together for countless generations, and she knows that it takes time for the pattern to emerge.

She knows, for example, that we are linked to all those we encounter each day, from the maintenance worker who picks up our garbage to the person who makes our espresso at the local coffee house. The God Who Knits knows that we are tied to those we love and to those who feel alienated from us, whether by our own actions or their misunderstanding of us.

I can almost hear the chorus of “Rip it!"
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She knows that we are linked to those in local homeless shelters and to those who are spending their last days in hospice care. She knows the patterns that connect us and she sees the beauty that emerges only with time.

And I suspect that she knows that sometimes frogging is the best way to fix a mistake. I think I’ve been frogged a time or two, times when it felt like my life was being pulled apart. Looking back, I can almost hear the chorus of “Rip it! Rip it!”

Painful as that process is, sometimes I get glimpses of the new pattern that can appear. One came a few months ago when I read a Newsweek article about the work being done by the Rev. Patricia Bulkley and her psychologist son Kevin Bulkley. The two have spent years studying the extraordinary dreams often experienced by people who are close to death. As people come to the end of their lives, often peace and comfort come in profound and surprising ways in their dreams.

In the article, the story was told of a man who was struggling mightily to find meaning at the end of his life. Shortly before he died, he had a simple dream that changed his entire perspective on his life. In the dream he found himself watching a room full of dancers moving to music. And as he watched, the people in the dance began to leave behind them strands of light, light that formed ribbons that wove a beautiful pattern as they moved about the floor.


Later he told the dream to Rev. Bulkley, ending with these words: "There really is a plan after all, isn't there?” he asked. "Somehow we all belong to one another."

I try to remember that image on the days when it seems like random chaos rules my life. We belong to one another, and we belong as well to the one who has knit us together in our mother’s wombs, the one who has the patience to see the pattern of our lives gradually emerge, the one who isn’t afraid to frog the yarn. The God Who Knits.

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