Many human activities have accompanied the development of civilization in various different areas, such as, for example, the field of the arts. They have undergone changes and improvements, of course, but their essence remains the same. Among these artistic skills spanning millennia is embroidery.
The origin of this textile craft – which, as everyone knows, involves the use of needlework to embellish fabric with colourful threads, forming designs – is lost in the mists of time. We know, however, that both the Greeks and Romans, as well as the Hebrews themselves, already practised this skill before the advent of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
It should be noted that this art was not born out of a merely utilitarian need; in itself, it has no practical value… Its purpose is purely aesthetic: by pleasing the senses, it exists in order to delight the higher human faculties as well.
But hidden beneath this pattern of threads which, arranged according to a specific design, adorns a piece of fabric, lies a profound lesson for our spiritual life.
To help us grasp it, let us imagine a simple scene from family life. While playing on the floor, a child observes his mother who – with a skilful hand and a serene spirit – exercises the craft of embroidery. At first, the little one does not quite understand what is going on… He only sees the under portion of the work and is mystified by the incoherent tangle of threads, which hardly give an idea of the design being formed. “Could this be to hide a tear in the fabric? Or perhaps to disguise a stain?” are some of the possible explanations that cross his mind.
Unwilling to set aside his curiosity for another occasion, the little boy asks his mother what she is really doing. The answer, however, is just a quick glance and a slight smile, while the good lady continues her needlework.
Before long, he is finally able to solve the mystery that so puzzled him! He comes closer and sees a marvellous masterpiece before his eyes, now viewed from above: the piece of fabric, once smooth, is now covered with beautiful, carefully worked figures, although, on the reverse side, there remains an intricate tangle of multi-coloured lines with no apparent logic.
Is this the result of an artistic technique? Undoubtedly, yes. But what does the divine didactic intend to teach us with it?
You, the reader, and I who write, along with all of humanity, find ourselves in the same situation as that little child: from below we are incapable of knowing the designs that God is “embroidering” from the highest Heaven. He traces out a series of plans which, to our eyes, seem tangled and shapeless. Sometimes we are even tempted to rebel because of the dramas – or the traumas – of our daily life. However, the Lord, who beholds everything “from above”, knows exactly which “threads” must cross our path to make the most beautiful design out of our existence.
For each one of us, it can be extremely difficult to accept this truth. “How much better it would be if we could design our own destiny…” Many times we do not realize that if this were the case, the final work would never reach its greatest perfection, since its author would be man and not the Most High.
“God writes straight with crooked lines,” says the well-known adage, with a great deal of truth. And we could well paraphrase it, applying it to the noble art of embroidery: “God embroiders straight with tangled lines.” But is that really so? Or are we the ones who see the divine design in a confused way? Those with faith affirm with certainty: “God embroiders straight with perfect lines.” We, from here below, see them as twisted, but they make up the magnificent pattern of the existence of each man, called to fulfil the designs of the Father in his regard so as to form the most beautiful piece of embroidery!
If we believe in God’s infinite wisdom and in His love for us, no “crookedness” should alarm us throughout our life. On the contrary, having been permitted or planned by Providence, every apparently incomprehensible tangle will turn out to be a true shortcut for us to reach the heavenly Kingdom more quickly. ◊