Warp and Weft

I’ve been doing a little sewing lately—a set of curtains, hemming a couple of skirts, and, of course, cloth masks. Fabric is one of those things that most of us take for granted—the cotton that makes the threads that makes the fabric that makes that favorite shirt you love so much so you never put it in the dryer. But if you look closely at the fabric, you can see a miniature kingdom of order and uniformity, tiny stitches going one way and tiny stitches going the opposite way. Longitude and latitude of warp and weft.

 

Imagine a loom being prepared for weaving: Yarn stretched taught in vertical lines, followed by shuttles of yarn woven in and out creating horizontal lines. To determine which set of thread is warp and which is weft, you must hold it in your hands and stretch it. If you pull on the fabric one way, there is very little stretch. If you turn it and pull the opposite way, the fabric gives. The stronger set of threads is the warp, because they were designed to withstand the tension of the weaving process.

 

I’ve always been interested in the character of strong, courageous people. What is it about their backgrounds that make them this way? Was it the resilience cultivated in them after some childhood tragedy that made them the “warp” of their families? Or did they learn this strong moral code from watching the Giants of Goodness who walked among them as they grew up? When the “weft” around them stretch and change colors like a chameleon according to current opinions, the strong stand up for what’s right even when it’s not popular, but how did they get that way?

 

The phrase “Be strong and courageous” is used four times in the space of one chapter in the Bible. Flip to Joshua 1 and you’ll see why. Moses, the Israelites’ revered leader, has died and General Joshua is taking over. They are about to battle against nation after nation, and they need to be reminded how to be the “warp”.

 

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. (vs. 6) Be strong and very courageous. (vs. 7) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. (vs. 9) Only be strong and courageous! (vs. 18)

 

Sometimes I also need to be reminded about the strength of my own design. I was woven with a warp and weft, strengths and weaknesses. There are times which require me to give a little and be flexible, just as there are times when I need to stand firm. Either way, we can heed the words given to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Roller Coaster Ride

You inhale deeply as you approach the wooden archway. A voice from the speaker above you and to your right is midway through its recording: “…so ride at your own risk. Only you know your limitations.”

 

You pull the corners of your mouth into a forced smile at the child who stands beside you. She has asked you to join her on this journey. It would be pure cowardice to retreat.

 

Together, you weave through the maze of metal fencing to find your place in line. The bars are painted a dark red. Shallow scratches and deep gashes in the paint show the original steely gray underneath. You rest your palms against the horizontal bars at your waist, but pull them back as you consider all of the sticky, sweaty hands that have blazed this trail before you, pioneers in tank tops and athletic shorts.

 

You glance at your child who stands shoulder-to-shoulder with you. You notice that you are eye level now. When did she get so tall or when did you shrink? She leans her back against the bar behind her, looking carefree and relaxed. A clattering sound rumbles over your heads, followed seconds later by deafening screams, and then both sounds are gone in a rush of air.

 

You shuffle forward a few feet. Conversations circle around you. Small children whine about the wait. Mothers remind them to be patient. A girl braids her friend’s hair into a long, tight rope. You turn away when you see a young couple embrace—too much affection in such a confined space.

 

Finally, you see the loading area. You watch people—brave souls just like you—as they board the cars. You fight the urge to salute them and their bravery. The affectionate couple from before is seated and both of them look nervous.

 

“I’m a little scared,” your child says quietly. You fake enthusiasm and confidence. You tell her, “Ah, come on. It’ll be fun. I promise.”

 

The cars return with their windswept occupants, smiling broadly. You wonder if their smiles are from joy or relief or both. Either way, you are encouraged that they returned without injury.

 

Your child slides into the car and you follow her. You attempt to steady trembling hands as you buckle the thick seat belt and pull down the padded bar. The bored, teen-aged park employee walks past each pair and tugs at their restraints. Internally, you question the extent of the training that allows him to operate this giant death trap.

 

It’s too late to turn back now. The cars rumble away slowly, teasing you with their nonchalant speed. You know this is a trick. You know this ride is designed to rattle your fillings and challenge your bladder.

 

The car climbs the steep hill with a repetition of clicks. At the top of the hill, you have only the briefest moment to assess the situation. In that moment, you calculate the risks and search your memory bank for any relevant news stories of crashes and negligent park staff. Then, you fall. The rapid descent lifts you ever so slightly from your seat. Your heart races and your stomach drops.

 

You chance a look at your child next to you—her eyes shut tight and her hands thrown into the air. She smiles. You scream. You find that you are grabbing her arm, involuntarily. The fear you felt before for your safety has been transferred to fear for hers.

 

When the ride is jerked to an abrupt end, you step out of the car and onto the platform with shaky legs. “That was fun!” your child says, as she bounces up and down with the release of pent-up energy. “Wanna do it again?” You manage a weak smile in response.

 

The endless recording continues as you exit the archway: “Only you know your limitations.” You chuckle at the thought of fully knowing something as fluid as your limitations. You follow your child away from the ride, watching her long legs manage a smooth, assertive stride and you wonder where this confidence comes from.

 

Suddenly, you wake up. It was all a dream. You’re not at an amusement park, but safely in your bed. As you examine the feelings of riding those ups and downs with your child, you realize that it’s May and your child is graduating from high school. Eighteen years of being her mom, and then this. Though there are giant question marks looming overhead as big as thunderclouds which seemed to be raining down their periods in the form of hail stones, you know there are sunny days ahead, just as you know that you are the proud parent of a Class of 2020 graduate.