Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Weaving is slow work--and that's a good thing

 "" I counted silently, focused as I wound string around the warping board on the wall. I counted and re-counted the strands: 33 burgundy, 49 black, 33 yellow. 

Surrounded by large wooden looms and hearing the gentle chatter from the handful of women who worked in the weaving studio, I was overcome with a sense of calm. I could stand here and methodically count threads all by myself! Without a small child asking me questions continually! I smiled and continued my work. Already, I loved weaving class. 

* * * 

Later that evening, I set down the threads of yarn and began to gather my things so I could leave. 

There's a lot of preparatory work in weaving, but when you get going, you just weave! And there's not much work to finish up at the end. It's all in the beginning, the instructor encouraged me. Two hours into my first class, and I hadn't even threaded the loom yet. But, that would come. I just needed to be patient. 

The next week, I bounced back in, excited to thread the loom so I could weave. The minutes ticked by as I adjusted harnesses and ran threads from back to front. I checked and re-checked my work. My class time ended, but my instructor assured me that next week, I could finally begin weaving. When I sat down at the next class, we looked over the threads and noticed that I had put a couple through the loom incorrectly. Gritting my teeth, I corrected the mistakes, and then I filled the shuttle, looked over the pattern, and began to weave. 

As I continued my classes, I relished this time. Even though I usually wound up getting home slightly later than I anticipated--oh, how easy it was to lose track of time while meditatively weaving away!--and faced piles of dirty dishes to wash once the kids were in bed, it was worth it. For these precious two hours a week, I was getting a break from parenting, nurturing my creativity, and learning a new skill. Moreover, I was being handed a wonderful opportunity to contemplate the slow, thoughtful work of God. 

In our culture of instant gratification, we are often tempted to bring a desire for immediate fruits into our churches. We want to see conversions happen in the blink of an eye, we want to see lives transformed right now, and we want to have tangible, quantifiable evidence that our ministry, prayers, and work are doing something good and beautiful for God. Yet, while there are occasions of "lightning bolt conversions," a la St. Paul on the road to Damascus, conversion--in ways both large and small--often takes place quietly, gradually. As we hear God's Word and see our need for His mercy and grace, we often take small steps to align our lives more closely to His will-and this is a lifelong process. 

Throwing the shuttle week after week, I found myself thinking of the slowness of the spiritual life. While we may want to jump from nothing to 100 in term of spiritual practices, I've found that whenever I try this, I usually falter and stumble more frequently. Instead, taking the time to slowly build a foundation proves to be more helpful for me in the long run. 

I also thought about the slow work of building community. One time, as I sat at the loom, the instructor asked me if I go by any nicknames. Not really, I responded. Another weaver stood nearby and mentioned that, she'll have to be here a bit longer before she gets a nickname. You know that's a sign that you really belong--when you get a nickname. I smiled to hear her words, since they point to a wonderful reality which we often miss: that growing in--and becoming part of--a community takes time. I thought of Jayber Crow, a character in Wendell Berry's novel of the same name. Jayber did not become a deeply connected member of Port William overnight. Rather, the process of becoming a strong member of the community took a long time. 

Building community is important work, and it's slow work. We can't just assume that our churches, neighborhoods, and cities will become strong communities instantaneously. We can't assume that a desire for a strong community will magically create one. Instead, we need to put in the hard work, the gradual work of creating a deeper community day after day, month after month, year after year. 

My feet danced on the pedals, my hands pulled the beater down to mash together the threads, and the shuttle continued to fly. A cloth appeared and finally, at my very last class, I took the scissors and cut the fabric off the loom (that first snip was a little nerve-wracking but extremely exciting!). My weaving is imperfect in many ways: the edges drift between being too tight and too loose, the beating was inconsistent, and a couple of rows are repeated in the wrong order. Yet, with all its mistakes, I love my little sampler. When I look at it, I think of the happy hours I spent at the weaving studio, and I am reminded that my health, wellbeing, and dreams are important. I look at the interlocked threads and I think of the slowness of handicrafts and the gradual, hidden work of God. 

When we're frustrated and discouraged by not seeing immediate results from work and prayer in our lives or the lives of others, let's remember: good work is often slow, and even if we never see the beautiful tapestry that is created, it's still being formed. Thread by thread, row by row, little by little, God works in our lives faithfully, ceaselessly, lovingly. 


  1. That's so neat, AnneMarie! I can so identify with the soothing peace of creating something with your hands. For me, it's crochet. Your weaving looks beautiful! And this is a wonderful reminder to my impatient self about growing thing slowly over time :-)

  2. Oh I love this! And your weaving is gorgeous. That would be so fun to take a weaving class.

  3. This is a beautiful reminder, one I can often forget. I am so inspired how you keep your hobbies and interests alive while parenting 3 little ones!

    1. Thank you! It is tough (especially since my formal class ended, carving out the time for creative work has been a challenge), but so important for me to do.