Have you ever seen a quilt that tells a story?
Many materials are woven together with different kinds of thread to form a pattern, a picture, or a series of them. If you have ever seen one of these hand made quilts, then you know what an incredible amount of time and energy must have gone into their making. They really are a work of beauty. I came across one recently and it made me stop and think: I wonder what my own life would look like in a series quilt patches? When you think through your own past, you can see that each one of us is a complex collection of experiences and relationships. You will see stories.
I was reflecting on this recently, imagining my life in story form. I saw the quilt, thinking back over all kinds of memories. But as I sat reflecting, I began to realize that the pictures were not all so nice. In fact, many of them were worn and frayed, revealing deep character flaws and sins in my life. I began to lament – many of the pictures I saw were sad. Stories were there of pain and shame. Stories were there that reminded me of times when I had been hurt, and more often times when I had deeply hurt others – my harshness, my critical spirit, my lack of compassion, my unforgiving heart. I was shocked, and thought to myself, this is completely unacceptable! The ugly patches seemed to make the whole quilt ugly, and I began to despair at the patchwork of my own soul.
But then I saw it. In my mind’s eye, I got the impression of a golden thread slowly going through all the patches. The golden thread was shining and brilliant. It eclipsed the ugliness of the bad patches, and even the “good” patches could not compare to this thread, which was somehow weaving the whole quilt together. And when I stood back and looked at it, incomplete though it was, one thing was clear. The golden thread stood out among the rest. It was the one thing redeeming the value of the quilt, and the one thing that was weaving the patches together. I was joyfully beside myself.
It’s easy to forget that the Christian life is a process that centers around Jesus, not ourselves and our past. When we dwell on our own successes and accomplishments, or our faults and failures, it easily leads to pride or despair. But when we focus our eyes on Jesus, seeking Him always – His presence, His power, His Spirit – He begins to bring real change into our lives. This change often occurs over months, years, and sometimes long seasons. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul exhorts us to “be filled” with the Spirit. Rather than making ourselves better by self control, we have to open our hearts to the Spirit of God. After all, self control is listed as a fruit of the Spirit, not the tree bearing the fruit. We do not produce real change by trying harder, but by bringing our hearts before God, and this is a continual process.
Charles Spurgeon made this apt analogy which makes sense of my impression of the quilt: “The golden thread of resurrection runs through all our blessings, from our regeneration to our eternal glory, and binds them together. “Praise God for His glorious truth ‘Christ has risen’!”. The golden thread, indeed!
The very fabric of our souls is tarnished, irreparable, unacceptable before a perfect and Holy God. But Christ makes it new! He can walk you through the darkest patches in your life with His grace. He makes that which was dead come to life, He causes the desert to bloom, and the dry rock to run with fresh waters – He can forgive you of all your sins, and wash you clean, enabling you to forgive others and give life to them. Seek Jesus, and ask for eyes to see His golden thread of grace in your life. Be filled with the Spirit, just as Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 5. If we fix our spiritual eyes on Christ, His word promises we will begin to see the patchwork of our souls transformed. He alone can lead us from the depths of despair to ‘joy unspeakable’.
For more on this topic, listen to Tim Keller on how to change.