Purposeful Untangling

The advent of Pinterest has taken do-it-yourself (DIY) projects to a whole new level. Gone are the all-inclusive cross-stitch, decorative latch hook rugs and paint-by-numbers kits from my youth. These days, if you find some old pieces of woodwork, a little twine and some paint, you’ve suddenly got all you need to produce 20 really cool picture frames.
Far too creative for someone like me, who likes their craft projects all boxed up and ready to go. In fact, I’m more likely to see a tangled ball of twine and think “Trash” than “Ooh! The beginnings of an exciting art project!”

That tangled ball of twine, however, is a good word picture for the complicated mess my emotional life is of late.

Without going into a lot of detail, the emotions that have been welling up inside me the last several months have tripped endlessly over each other, getting tangled up and confused and looking more and more like a hopeless mess as time goes by. It’s become a DIY project that I really don’t want to start.

It was a huge help to me, then, when a friend of mine reminded me that my “Heart Mess DIY Project” wasn’t a do-it-yourself project at all (Matthew 11:28). She helped me use that “ball of twine” word picture to remind myself of a comforting truth.

When my emotional life becomes one of those big balls of gnarled-up twine, I may see it as such a mess as to be something to discard. But Jesus is not in the least deterred by my messiness. Rather, He is adamant that He wants to use this particular ball of twine for an art project He has in mind.

I can easily imagine Jesus sitting quietly, patiently working through the twine, loosening pieces and undoing bits, then moving to another area full of tangles. From my perspective, what He’s doing seems to make no sense…but as He continues His work, slowly and faithfully keeping at it, the ball of twisted-up twine starts to resemble something useful again.

Sometimes there are knots that have to be cut out, but what He leaves is stronger and more useful without the pieces He removed. The cutting is a painful process, but He encourages me to trust that one day I will see the need for the pain, because He is nothing if not loving, purposeful and good.

This word picture has helped me of late to accept that God’s work in my life often seems messy and its purposes are nearly always murky, at least on the front end. I can’t see how He’s going to work out some of the hopelessly-knotted areas of my life. To me, I am still in the “large, gnarled-up ball of twine” stage, and I am tempted to despair of ever getting the knots loosened and unraveled enough to be strong and of any use again.

But the truth is that God’s work is never messy; I just can’t see the beauty of it from where I am. I need regular reminders that God must see something more, and something of value amongst the mess, because He is still sitting there, patiently working through the knots. And so, I sit alongside Him, trying to do what He calls me to do.

Like I said, it’s been hard, painful work so far, and some days I don’t see any progress at all. I still look like a tangled mess to myself, and probably to everyone else, too. There are many days when I wish I could somehow throw away my tangled mess of a heart and start anew. Like I would with that tangled ball of twine. But then, maybe in failing to do the painstaking work of unknotting my mess of emotions, I would miss the art project God is trying to make of me.

Not something you’re likely to find on Pinterest anytime soon, though.

Psalm 139:1-6 (ESV)
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
   You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
   you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
   and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
   behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
   and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
   it is high; I cannot attain it.

Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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