It’s not always easy to make sense of life.
Some have described life as being like a tapestry—one side is covered with knots and a few loose ends while the reverse side shows the beautiful picture those knots and stitches have formed.
Most of us would prefer life to come in a neat package, to be able to understand just what’s going on and having people behave in predictable ways.
It can be comforting to think of our lives as a beautiful tapestry even if all we can see are the knots, but I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us know that life isn’t that neat. A friend of mine calls this lack of neatness the ‘ragged edges’ of life.
These ‘ragged edges’ come in many versions, but many are variations on the theme of unresolved relationship issues. The lingering hurt and distress from a failed marriage, the estranged family member, the family get-togethers that always result in fights, or the falling out with a long-time friend.
Counsellors, psychologists, mentors and coaches offer ways and means to make sense of this raggedness, offering us the opportunity to ‘see’ the bigger picture, to ‘see’ the beautiful tapestry of our lives. I’m not decrying such assistance—I’ve used it myself, many times.
However, there are some events and relationships that can’t be resolved. They’re the ones that, no matter how hard you work or how much perspective you gain, leave you with consistently ‘ragged edges’.
So how do we sit with those ragged edges of our own lives?
An ancient writer spoke of there being a time or a season for everything—birth and death, tearing down and building up, weeping and laughing, keeping and throwing away (Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verses 1–8)—and also said that God makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verse 11). Both of these ideas assume that at some point we’ll see the beautiful picture.
However, the same writer said a number of times that life is meaningless, describing it as ‘a chasing after wind’ (Ecclesiastes chapter 2, verse 26). I think he understood that there are some things in life that are like ‘chasing wind’—some things we’ll never ‘catch’, some things we just can’t control and some ends that will always remain ‘ragged’.
This ancient writer ended his ponderings with these words: ‘Fear God and keep his commandments’ (Ecclesiastes chapter 12, verse 13). Perhaps that’s where we need to end up when we can’t fix things, make sense of things or control things.
We need to end up back with God who is the one true constant in life, the one who is always lovingly consistent and who we can rely on to not have any ‘ragged edges’.