It feels like I’ve been untangling a lot of yarn recently. Between Caleb, Evie and myself, we manage to tangle quite a bit as we learn how to knit. It reminds me a bit of untangling necklaces, except that with yarn you can usually give up and cut it and it’s not the end of the world. But, for whatever reason, I have a strong aversion to giving up and cutting the yarn, and so I spend more time than is probably prudent untangling.
My spiritual director has been known to say that your spiritual discipline is likely what you are already doing; that God/the universe has a way of making you practice what you need to practice without you having to choose it. If this is true then I think untangling might just be my spiritual practice at the moment.
One’s first inclination (even if one knows better) when faced with a tangle of yarn is to start pulling. Usually you can find one end of the yarn and then you start trying to follow it, pulling it free of the tangles as you go. And, often, this works up to a point. But there comes a point (usually sooner then I would like) when pulling becomes counterproductive, when what is most useful is actually bunching the yarn together slightly and gently plucking at various strands to see if you can’t loosen the tangle. It is so slow and, at times, tortuously tedious, but it usually works with enough patience and perseverance.
I suspect the analogy could be made to any number situations in life, but for me, in this moment in my life, I’m finding it has helpful lessons to teach me as I interact with my kids. There are lots of times when my first inclination is to either lay down the law or fix whatever problem they’re having. But often, I suspect that what they really need is just for me to hold them gently and help them pluck at various solutions or options until we can find a way forward together.
I suspect this practice of gently untangling is also trying to teach me something about my spiritual life. It is one of the realities of the spiritual life that whatever works in one season of your life may not work in another. For me, this happened when I changed jobs. The spiritual practice that always fed my soul and helped me feel connected to God and to myself and to the world no longer does those things for me. And, despite having walked other people through this process as a spiritual director, I still find myself surprised and annoyed, frustrated and a little bit heartbroken. Despite knowing better, there are still days when I want to pull the yarn, so to speak, when I think that if I could just do it “right” then surely I will feel connected again. But I know that what I really need to do is treat it more like yarn, to hold my life gently in my hands and bunch it together while I pluck at different practices to see what might feed my soul in this time and place.
What about you? What has life been giving you to practice?
something Worth reading
by Ann Patchett
Fair warning, this is a long one. But it is worth it. In this long-form personal essay, author Ann Patchett, tells the story of the beginning of the pandemic as it happened in her world. It’s a story that features Tom Hanks, a houseguest who can’t leave, questions of endings and meaning and so much more, all pulled together in this wonderful essay that left me feeling reconstituted. I hope it will do the same for you. (read the essay here)
something worth watching
something worth hearing
Admittedly, I’m a big fan of the song that they’re playing. But I suspect that even if it isn’t your favorite, you’ll enjoy watching people’s response to it and be mightily impressed with the musicians’ balance!
something worth praying
by Ruth Burgess
shuttling the thread of glory
through the pattern of our days.
Come, bed us down
into the cloth of earth and heaven.
Come clothe us with joy.