October 23, 2013


I enjoy counted cross-stitching. The various colors, types of stitches, and overall layout of an emerging picture bring a sense of accomplishment from the project that is different from anything else in my everyday life.

While sewing a long, repetitious section of a gift I was preparing for my new great-granddaughter, I was impressed by the similarities between what I was doing and the growth process of my spiritual life.

One of the very first elements I noticed is patience. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither are counted cross-stitch patterns. Counted cross-stitching involves hours of sewing, concentration, and careful adherence to written instructions. Any attempt to rush through it causes mistakes that require either time-consuming restitching or abandoning the project altogether. The pattern will emerge only when done slowly, one stitch at a time.

In my spiritual life, patience must also be exercised. Hours must be spent in prayer and concentration on the life of Christ with a clear commitment to learning and following God’s plan for my life.

The designer who created the picture I was working on prepared a particular plan with specific instructions to follow in order to reproduce it. Counted cross-stitch involves counting the number of stitches you sew with a certain color or type of stitch, such as straight stitch, back stitch, cross-stitch, or a French knot. It may also call for the use of single, double, or triple threads. If I tried to do it my way, before long the project would be a tangled mess.

And so I am reminded of the thoughts and promises that God has for my life recorded in Jeremiah 29:11: “ ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” When I study and seek to understand the Lord’s plan for my life, I am confident He will guide me to where I can be of the most service for Him.

When I follow the instructions spelled out by the cross-stitch designer, the pattern will be perfectly reproduced. When I follow the counsel given to me in the Bible, the Holy Spirit produces the perfection in me that God desires. Now though I try to follow directions carefully, I make mistakes. But when I encounter a mistake, I can always go back to the plan laid out by the cross-stitch designer and redo the section.

Likewise in life, when I become aware of a mistake (or sin) that has affected my relationship with another person or with God, I know I must acknowledge it, take responsibility, and try to correct it.

As I examined my completed project, I discovered a contrast between the upper and bottom side of the canvas. The bottom is a mess of tangled threads with no noticeable plan or pattern. Certainly it is nothing to be proud of. But the upper side reveals a remarkable and beautiful scene, which is an exact duplicate of the picture displayed on the kit I chose.

In my life as well, what seems like a jumble of disconnected events that did not produce a valuable or lasting influence in this world isn’t really that at all. The upper side of the completed project reminds me that God looks on the upper side of my life. He orders what seems like the jumbled mess of my life and connects the miscellaneous threads in such a way that the pattern that emerges is the fulfillment of the plan He has designed for me. And I am amazed.