God and silk: the stewardship of smile


The bolt of silk on the lower left makes my legs go weak.  The way the color shifts as the light hits the raw silk changes its hue from pale blue to lime and then to yellow as you move – or as it moves.  Or both.  These silks in a shop in Thailand were the choices given to me when I was asking for a stole to be made by a Thai seamstress names Lanna.  She waved her hands over it and when I ooed and awed, she gently gestured to a woman to her right. The woman was a bazzillion gazzilion years old; and she smiled a toothless, beautiful smile as if she had been there when God decided, once and for all, that silk worms would be a good addition to the creation.  She, this elderly lady I was told, was the woman who had spun this silk and did the dying of the threads.  I wanted to kiss her hands.  I wanted to know how she had come up with this color. I wanted to know if God had only once taken human form.

Behind the shop were the vats of boiling water in which the cocoons of the silk worms were being boiled.  Poor worms.  And nearby was the group of old ladies with sticks dipping into the vats to pull out strings of silk which had dissolved and separated from the cocoons so that they could be wrapped onto the spools.  Nearby were the color vats and in the next room, the looms.

I often go back to that day in my mind when life gets very hard.  I use the images to jerk myself out of my own pain the way a good doctor must jerk an arm back into its socket after a dislocation. Yes, this is going to hurt; a lot, in fact. But then the pain under the pain will subside and all will begin to heal.  Well, some will.

When I see these colors and think of those old ladies who could not work fast enough to bring me tea and ask me to sit with them and whose old, wrinkled hands kept stroking my cheek and whose inner worlds smiled on me and warmed me like the tea – when I see them I am reminded how wonderful life is.  Mean people, regrets, manipulations and how unfair life can seem all drift away into tea and color and wise, poor, old women and the pools of love their eyes held.

last night as I said the Eucharist at the Wilderness service my watery eyes fell on a silk not unlike this one on the lower left. The color distracted me from the liturgy for a moment. It felt like God was whispering “I know…right?” But when I closed my eyes to re-focus all I saw was that Thai woman’s smile.

God uses everything and everyone to communicate with us. And occasionally God uses the church.

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