Monday, May 3, 2010

Holding Patterns and Heel Flaps (Thoughts on Waiting)

I had the benefit of watching our entire flight from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt on the video monitor in front of my seat in February. Our flights to Israel had all been delayed by many hours, and we set off for home expecting more trouble. Israel was about 90 degrees the day before we left. As we got closer to Frankfurt, our captain explained to us first in German, then in French, and finally in English that a snow storm was causing delays in Frankfurt, and we were going to enter a holding pattern to give the ground crew time to clear the runways in preparation for our arrival. This was not nice news. I was sure we would end up missing our connections, and be stuck in Germany again going home.

Mentally I've always pictured a holding pattern as giant circles directly over the airport you want to land at -- there you are, exactly where you want to be, with no hope of landing. I watched the screen as hundreds of miles away from Frankfurt, our plane made cursive loops, each one getting a little closer to our destination. I felt the Lord drawing my attention to the pattern itself. It wasn't what I thought. It advanced, slower than the pilot had intended at first, but still, it was advancement. And as we finally landed, later than we had wanted to, I looked around at the snow on the ground, and at the equipment that had been working to clear the snow. While we were delayed in the air, all the expectations of the ground crew were working toward our arrival. The delay brought us safety. The 'hindrance' was for our benefit.

I am a knitter. There I was, mindlessly knitting a sock, (which is an excellent small project to carry in your purse) when I noticed something I'd never noticed before. A top-down sock is knitted first as a tube. Each line of stitches advances evenly in each row. One perfect spiral of interlocking loops for how ever many inches you want the leg to be. Mine was six inches. When the tube is six inches long, I place half the stitches on one needle, and knit a flap in a slip stitch pattern, which forms the heel of the sock. The other half of the stitches remain on their needles -- doing nothing, and having only reached half their knitting potential. For twenty-five rows, I ignore them. Every row brings the working stitches farther from the held stitches. If I was a held stitch, I would feel left behind. Set on the shelf. Cast off.

After twenty-five rows of slip stitching, I turn the heel. Turning the heel changes its shape and reduces the working stitches. When I have 14 stitches left, I divide them in half, and I pick up stitches from the sides of the flap. Once the stitches are picked up, the entire sock is rejoined into a tube. The dormant section of the sock is active again, and the knitting resumes its spiraling. The held stitches are no less a part of the sock when they are waiting than they are when they are working. The entire fabric is only one long thread, and every bit of it passes through my hands. The yarn is not a stitch until I form it. It's just yarn until I make it something else. Each stitch has its place and its time of service. If I never left half of them inactive, the sock would have no heel.

Ephesians 4 and Colossians 2 both talk about the Body of Christ, and how it is knitted together in love.

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