A story has been told of a man who watched how a spider built its web. With deep and focused observation, this man was able to replicate that into creating one of the beautiful pieces of fabric among the Akan people of Ghana. The beautifully woven fabric is primarily worn on celebratory occasions but there are different patterns that are worn on somber days. The occasion determines what pattern of Kente one wears.
Recently, we started a new knitting ministry at Christ Church. I don't know how to weave or knit, myself, but I do know that each day presents me with a wonderful opportunity to weave or knit a beautiful fabric with my life. I remind myself, each morning, that there are those things that are in my control, and there are also those things that are beyond my control. I cannot control what someone else does but I can control what I do, and so as difficult as it may be, I must always make sure that I weave a beautiful fabric with my life. Am I always successful? No. But at least I am conscious of my own attempt at weaving that beautiful fabric, and so should you.
There are times when we can get the feeling that if a particular thread has been figuratively dyed a different color, things would have been different. But that is a misnomer. Life is not lived by colors, and colors do not determine anything; each experience may take on a color of a thread, and each thread is woven together to make a beautiful fabric with different patterns. Like the Kente cloth, each pattern tells a story. Each story has a pattern. Every single part of your life is like a thread - even invisible, sometimes. But for the fabric to come alive, each part of your life's fabric, the thread should be woven together. The point I am trying to make here is that each part of your life - good or bad, ugly or beautiful, tragic or triumphant - is incredibly significant, and you are enriched, deeply enriched by all your experiences combined. For me, the beauty lies in the sum total of all.
I have always been moved by the story of a man whose fabric was woven by threads of joy, sadness, tragedy, and success. He was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago named Horatio Spafford, who wrote the words to the popular hymn It Is Well.
He had a wife, Anna, and five children. Tragedy also entered his life; a son died of pneumonia in 1871 at the age of four. They also lost their business in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
On November 21, 1873, a French ocean liner, Ville du Havre, was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters. Mr. Spafford had planned to go to Europe with his family, but as fate would have it, he stayed in Chicago with a promise to his family that he will join them with another ship.
About four days into the journey, the Ville du Havre collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck and sought God’s mercy through prayer. But within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve sank with 226 of the passengers, including the four Spafford children. Anna survived because she was found floating on a piece of the wreckage by a sailor rowing a boat over the spot where the ship sunk. He pulled her into the boat. Anna eventually landed in Cardiff, Wales.
Remember, there are those things that you have control over, and they're those over which you don’t have any control over.
From Cardiff, she sent a telegram to her beloved Horatio, which simply read, “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Horatio would later frame the telegram and place it in his office. He got himself on the next available ship to join his grieving wife, Anna. When the ship got to the spot where Ville du Havre sunk, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down.
The Staffords went on to have more children. One of the surviving children, Bertha Spafford Vester, wrote that her father wrote the words to the aforementioned hymn while he was on his way to reconnect with his wife.
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul
With these words, Mr. Spafford sure reminds me of Job’s thoughts: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” The question then, is, how can ‘It’ be well when my world just fell apart? For me, it takes a different kind of spiritual growth and depth to arrive at the point in life where you can utter those words without any reservation. Where you can bless God for a thread that didn’t fit right, but yet, can still make the fabric beautiful.
I don’t think I could muster the courage of Mr. Spafford to pen those soothing words of reassurance and contentment - It is Well.
As I said before, I do not know how to weave nor do I know how to knit, but I believe that in so far as there’s some thread in me, I can still weave and knit this life of mine. So long as there’s some thread in you, you can still weave and knit yours, as well.
Remember, there are those things which you have control over and they're those over which you don’t have any control over. The only prayer I can share with you is one of making sure that for those things over which we can exercise some control, may we never relent in weaving those into the beautiful fabric that we desire to see.
My prayer for you today is that in spite of whatever circumstances in which you may find yourself, don’t stop weaving, and don’t stop living. You still have a few more threads, all waiting to make that beautiful fabric.