Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Braiding and Brokenness: The Significance of Our Lenten Practice

It's been a few weeks that Lent has been over, now. Since I've gotten some emotional distance from the difficulty of the Triduum and the catch-up work that always happens after Easter Sunday, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on our Lenten practice this year.

Many people of all ages (even some from outside our immediate congregational community!) took part in our lenten braiding project. Each Sunday, I collected the braids that people turned in, and spent my afternoon weaving them together by hand, one by one, using a continuous piece of yarn--my own personal Lenten practice.

Blessed Be the Tie That Binds

By the time Easter Sunday arrived, I was pretty done with the project, to be entirely honest. It was an awful lot of work, and it hadn't turned out at all the way I expected, you see.

I didn't want to traumatize you with the actual volume,
but rest assured I could have woven an entirely new cloth.

The ripped fabric gave way to billions and billions (or so it seemed) of stray threads that stubbornly got in the way of both braiding and weaving...

I invited people to bring in their own braids, but I was unprepared
for how much the different colors and textures bothered me.

...people submitted braids with a different color scheme that didn't necessarily "match" with the purples and neutrals that we started with...

Just braids, yarn, and me.
...and asking many different types of people of varying braiding ability to participate meant that the braids that came back to me were dramatically different from one another.

Some were uniform and tightly woven; others were asymmetrical and loose. Some were short and some were long. Some were tied off neatly and some, well, I wasn't certain they'd stay together without assistance. My "Type-A" personality struggled mightily with the variation. 

What's more, my stitching strategy and ability evolved as I worked. As the blanket grew, I looked back on my previous weeks' work uncomfortably: I didn't pull the yarn tight enough here; the blanket isn't wide enough there; there's too many places where it doesn't lay flat. About halfway through Lent, I desperately wanted to rip the whole thing apart and over start again, but I decided that the process was as much a part of the project as the finished product was (plus, I would have had to pull several all-nighters during Holy Week to get it done--that's a hard "no").

As difficult as it was for me to accept, all of this--every variation, every evolution, every mistake, every surprise--was part of the story that we were telling through this project. Every person who took part (including me) brought their beautiful, broken, and unique selves to the table. Each person offered what they had, and even if it wasn't what I expected or hoped for, it was enough, and it was perfect in its imperfection. It made the blanket what it was--what it was always supposed to be. Not a machine-manufactured, bland, and forgettable part of the background, but a brilliant creation that draws the you in and reminds you that we are bound together, for better or for worse, in Christ's love. 

The single yarn connecting each braid is a reminder that, from the youngest to the oldest, from the neatest to the messiest, from the spiritually-driven to the logic-driven, from the beginning to the end, we are all connected to one another--in our brokenness, in our blindness, and in our belovedness.

It was not lost on me that, as a pastor, I was being entrusted with each person's vulnerability in the form of their braids. As we braided, we though of those things that separated us from Christ and that were holding us back from the fullness of knowing God's kingdom. I was the one who held each of these prayers tangibly in my hands, lovingly giving each one its place in the tapestry of our communal story (although, admittedly, frustration played a significant role at times--just like in any ministry). 

No matter how well each person's offering fit with my vision, it had a purpose and a place in the larger plan. This was the most humbling lesson and reminder for me. 

When it was all done, we shared communion on Easter Sunday with our blanket serving as the (bumpy, imperfect) tablecloth. Again, we remembered how interconnected we are--all of us that share this bread, and this cup, all over the world--and how that is Jesus' most desperate desire for us: that we take our sins, our shortcomings, our pain, gather it together, and transform it into beautiful, beloved community.

Community that holds one another through the impossibly hard times, that celebrates together in the unspeakably joyful times, that bears with one another in the irritatingly frustrating times, and that loves one another at all times.

Halleluiah! He is risen--he is risen, indeed!

1 comment:

  1. I so admire your creative expressions of faith and community, Katey. You are inspiring!