[A process that is often as challenging as herding cats, or poets.]
When I became a spinner and then a weaver two decades ago, the Old Testament began to come alive for me. I had dutifully chewed my way from Genesis to Malachi more than once since joining the LDS Church in 1975, and I loved the stories of Abraham and his family, Ruth, Esther, and some of the Psalms. But much of the OT seemed to revolve around cranky prophets who were forevermore telling people to shape up, and a cantankerous Deity who smote them when they didn’t.
But it came to pass – which was one of LittleBit’s favorite phrases from the Book of Mormon when she was a tot; when we read aloud as a family and came to that phrase, whoever was reading would stop, point to her, she would pipe “and it came to pass”, and the reader would continue with the rest of the passage – that as I was reading the description of how the tabernacle was to be constructed, it suddenly dawned on me that the side panels were hand-woven from handspun wool, and it is likely that more than one spinner and more than one weaver had been involved.
And I remembered having read, most likely in Spin Off, that if you give three spinners adjacent handfuls of wool from the same section of fleece, they will give you back three unique strands of yarn. How on earth did those OT spinners learn to create a yarn that was perfectly consistent from end to end and from spinner to spinner, so that the weavers could create panels that were perfectly identical? Was this a nifty little life skill that they picked up while serving their Egyptian masters? I understand that the few surviving fragments of textiles from that period show tremendously fine craftsmanship.
Given, only the most skilled spinners and weavers would have been invited or called upon to spin and weave for the tabernacle, which was a portable temple that would be graced by the presence of the Almighty. I wonder what they thought as they spun and wove, these children of the covenant? I wonder how they felt when the Lord accepted their consecrated effort and graced the tabernacle with His glory?
We know the names of the Israelite midwives who saved the lives of baby boys against the decrees of an unrighteous Pharaoh and made it possible for Moses to grow up and lead the Children of Israel from slavery to agency and accountability. [Shiprah and Puah, you ladies rock! And when we meet again on the other side I hope to have some Hershey’s Special Dark for you.]
As far as I know, we do not have the names of the men and/or women who spun the yarn and wove the panels for the tabernacle. But they are collectively on the list of people I want to meet when I graduate from earth life. Right after Jael the Nail and Rahab the Harlot [I wonder if she spun the scarlet thread that saved her household?]
One of the lessons we take away from temples ancient and modern, is the concept of unity. Many sheep yielding up their wool to make a uniform yarn to build a portable temple. Many artisans spinning the wool and weaving the panels, each one like unto its neighbor. Many families combining to create wards and stakes, where the same doctrines are taught and similar acts of service are performed and the same basic life lessons are learned. And yet each of us loses none of our individuality in this unity. We remain as uniquely *ourselves* as our fingerprints, but [unlike the snowflakes in an avalanche] we learn to hold ourselves accountable for our choices. And we learn to make better choices, ones with consequences that bless rather than burden.
And over time, we begin to catch glimpses of the beauty and nobility and dignity of our neighbor, and to treat him or her accordingly. I love what C.S. Lewis said, that we have “never met an ordinary mortal”. And I love Alma’s question in the Book of Mormon, “Have ye received his image in your countenances?” [Alma 5:14].
Sometimes I envision this process of purification and sanctification as the spiritual equivalent of petrified wood. Over time, the hard-heartedness and stubbornness and pride to which we are all heir as mortals, the parts of us that are earth-bound and alien to our spirits, and which must be lovingly disciplined if we are to have any hope of happiness in life, get leached away by God’s love and compassion as we stumble and fall on the path and rise to try again.
It gives me enormous comfort to know that God knows and loves me, Lynn, and values me because I am His child, and wants me to be happy. Yes, there are rules by which the universe works, and if I study those rules and attempt to bring my choices and my behaviors into alignment with them, then I am at peace regardless of my circumstances or challenges. And those rules were given in love. They cannot bring me Home, in and of themselves; they are only designed to point me toward the Giver.
Think of those fine old people whom you know, whose lives and minds and hearts have been shaped by service, whose bodies maybe frail and worn, but whose eyes shine with grace and humor and courage. There are a goodly number of them in my ward. I want to be like them when I grow up.
- Five years into widowhood, after one year of incredible happiness and nearly 14 years of single blessedness. Have given up perfect manicures and pretty hands in order to resume playing the soprano recorder and to see if I can figure out how to play bluegrass banjo. Singing in the shower. Still really, *really* love to knit!