Lately I’ve begun imagining my life as a lengthening cord of woven strands. The cord is multi-coloured and lumpy with portions of the weave wide and thick while other sections are narrow and patchy. Each strand represents a person who has been a part of my life – those who remain integral to the core weave are easily recognizable, and the ones whose strands only appear for small segments are just as easy to overlook.
I’m not exactly sure what started me on this reflection – perhaps some recent conversations that reminded me of valued relationships, perhaps a continuing dissatisfaction with shallow representations of relationship enabled by social media, perhaps my age which continues to sag toward words like ‘old’ and ‘retired,’ perhaps just the need to see life on a larger scale than the narrow confines of the present. Whatever its origins, the reflection has turned out to be an exercise in humility and gratitude.
Part of me wishes I could speak to some of the people who only knew a much younger version of me. I (mostly) am not that person anymore, but there is something very comforting in knowing that for all my immaturity, naivete, and awkwardness, I was still seen and known and loved.
I wish I had been more at ease with myself back then. I wish I had been more aware of others and their needs. I wish I had put less energy into trying to find my place and more of it into living fully in the community where I already belonged.
I am grateful for the people who bring such strength to the early strands of my life – you represent my history, something that few people in my present world know or understand.
Family members are firmly woven into my life-cord – some right from the beginning, others entering in their appointed places along the way through birth or adoption or marriage. The strands of these relationships have been shaped by many things, sometimes losing their luster in the give-and-take, taken-for-granted, yet shifting priorities of an expanding family unit. Sometimes strands frayed and needed mending. In a few places knots hold things together again. As unsightly as they may seem, these knots declare that there are relationships that must never be abandoned.
I wish I knew my family better. I wish they knew me better – not the me they knew from growing-up years or the newly in-lawed years, but the present day, still-flawed-but-growing-in-grace me.
I am so very grateful for the ways the strands of family have both deeply blessed and challenged me – you represent a foundation necessary to understanding so much of myself.
The strands of friendship are of particularly varied lengths, textures, and colours. Some are long and strong, bridging weak areas, smoothing broken edges, providing continuity for things like hope and purpose. Patterns woven from our shared memories are often delightfully refreshing and continue to inspire me. I’m equally saddened by the strands that end abruptly. If I look closely where they disappeared, I sometimes find dark threads of hurt and even anger, and I have to carefully pull them out. Again. Discard them. Again. Choose forgiveness. Again.
I wish I had been a better friend. I wish I had learned earlier what I am still learning now: how to just be with others without comparison, without judgement, without needing attention or questioning how to fit in. Sometimes I wish others had heard my heart when my words weren’t working very well. I wish I had been a better listener.
I am grateful for the many strands of friendship woven in from childhood to the present – you represent a dynamic and living community that has both shaped and sustained me.
One particular strand begins the day a certain young man suggested that we go on a Saturday hike and I said yes. Several ‘yeses’ and an exchange of ‘I do’s’ later, our separate strands became permanently intertwined as one. I can’t imagine my life without this man who continues to know me and love me anyway.
I have many wishes and regrets about my adequacy as a wife, and certainly about my ‘success’ as a mother to our three children, but I am grateful beyond words for the strong, faithful strand of my husband – you represent an anchor keeping me moored to truth about myself, about God, about us.
I am grateful that although there have been many times when I have felt alone, the woven strands of my life remind me that I have never ever been without family, friends, and community.
Grace upon grace.