I had been told how the old-time weavers, all the while they were making their beautiful and intricate patterns, saw no more than the backs of their shawls. Nothing was visible to them but a tangle of colored threads. They never saw the design they were creating until they took the finished fabric from their looms.
The parallel to the mortal lot is plain. Human experience appears to us – as the shawls did to the weavers – to be no more than incomprehensible tangles of colored threads, whereas in fact life represents the ordered threads in a great design – the design being woven daily on the loom of eternity.
~Ernest Gordon from Miracle on the River Kwai
“Although the threads of my life have often seemed knotted,
I know, by faith, that on the other side of the embroidery there is a crown.”
~Corrie Ten Boom in My Heart Sings
What does it say about me that I’ve covered the back of countless embroidery projects so the tangles are no longer visible? There is a sense of shame in that hiddenness of the messy side of existence, the not wanting to admit how really chaotic life is at times.
Yet out of the incomprehensible comes beauty. Out of the mess comes order and harmony. What appears knotted and tangled and makes no sense becomes grace on our heads, like a crown.
It did seem odd this morning during my barn chores that our six year old Haflinger gelding stood facing the back wall as I opened his stall door to give him his hay. For a moment I wondered if there was a problem with his appetite as he usually would dive right into his hay as soon as I threw it to him. A closer look told me the problem was with his hind end, not his front end: his heavy white tail was wrapped snugly around a J hook hanging on the stall wall meant to hold his water bucket. Instead now it held him — and wasn’t letting go. He had apparently been itching his butt back and forth, round and round on the handy hook and managed to wrap his tail into such tight knots on the hook that he was literally tethered to the wall. He was very calm about the whole thing only maybe just a little embarrassed.
He turned his head to look at me, pitiful. How long he’d been standing there like that through the night was anyone’s guess. I bet he no longer was itchy.
I started to work at untying the tail knots to free him and found them wound so tight that loosening them required significant cooperation from my 1200 pound buddy. Unfortunately, any time I managed to almost unloop a knot over the hook end, he would pull forward, snugging it even tighter. Out of desperation I pulled out the scissors I keep in my barnjacket pocket. I cut one knot hoping that would be sufficient. Then I cut through another knot. Still not enough. I cut a third big knot and thank God Almighty, he was free at last. He sauntered over to his hay now with a chunk of his tail in my hand and a big gap in what was still left hanging on him. It may take a year to grow that missing hair back out. But hey, it is only hair and at least someone kind and caring came along with a set of shears to release him painlessly from his captivity. We aren’t all so lucky.
I know what it is like to get tangled up in things I should probably give wide berth. I have a tendency, like my young horse, to butt in where I best not be and then become so bound I can’t get loose again. It can take forever to free myself, sometimes painfully leaving parts of my hide behind.
So when I inevitably get tied up in knots again, I hope someone will come along to save me. Better yet, I hope someone might warn me away from the things that hook me before I foolishly back right into them. I’ve got to loosen up and quit pulling the knots tighter.
It’s best to always have a detangler handy. You never know when you might need one.