Saturday, December 30, 2017

Quilting the Pieces Together

Photo by Francis.arquesa 2014

I dreamed that my family and I are touring the French countryside, accompanied by a young blonde girl, wearing her hair in a braid, whom I didn’t recognize. In the dream, we have just visited an ancient chateau and are walking along the bank of the surrounding moat. I find a fossil that contains what look like four black teeth, and I cry out excitedly to my husband, who is an avid fossil collector. But he doesn’t share my enthusiasm, and dismisses my find, saying “Oh, that’s just old building material.”

We come to a tree which has been uprooted and is lying on its side, the dead roots pointing backward along our path and the black, bare branches pointing forward, like a giant sea fan stranded on the beach. However, most of the trunk seems to still be connected to the earth by vines overgrowing it.

The young girl asks me about the bed coverings we had seen in the castle, all pieced together.

“You mean quilts?” I ask in surprise. “Haven’t you seen a quilt before? You and I need to have a long talk about quilting!”

I explain how I had once started to make a quilt, but I hadn’t spoken to anyone who knew how to do it, so I had to learn by trial and error rather than benefiting from the experience of others. I had chosen to use hexagonal quilt blocks instead of squares, which made my task even more difficult. Undeterred, she says she wants to make a theme quilt, based on the subject of painted cities.

We meet up with our son, who is acting as our tour guide, at the visitor center, and we ask him if we can go back along the bank to explore further. He says no; we have to move on to our next destination.

As I awoke and contemplated the meaning of the dream, I realized that a fossil is a preserved record and memento of the distant past. To dwell in the past is a danger, if we attempt to treasure it in itself, rather than realizing that the lessons learned and experiences we had there are just building material for our present life. In the dream, my son warned me that we can’t revisit our past experiences, because it’s time to move on to our next destination.

The fossil in the dream took the form of teeth, which in Scripture are often equated with violence, aggression or insatiable greed (Deuteronomy 32:24; Job 16:9; 41:14; Psalm 35:16; 37:12; 124:6; Proverbs 30:14; Isaiah 41:15; Lamentations 2:16; Daniel 7:5,7; Zechariah 9:7). The fossil teeth were black, suggesting that God can use even the darkest experiences such as these, whether we were victim or perpetrator, to shape us more into the character of Jesus (Philippians 3:10), working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

There were four teeth in the fossil, and the first mention of the number four in the Bible references the fourth day of Creation, in which God made the sun, moon and stars not only as light sources, but to indicate and measure the passage of time and to give us the four seasons  (Genesis 1:14-19). These measurements really have personal meaning to us only to mark past events, for we are not promised tomorrow (James 4:14), and only God knows how many years or even minutes our future on earth holds (Luke 12:20).

The uprooted dead tree we encountered also suggests the contrasts between the past, for the roots were pointing backward, and the future, with the bare branches pointing forward, indicating a general direction but no details, for our future is unknown except to God (Jeremiah 29:11). But the only part of this tree still connected to the earth and showing signs of life was the trunk, symbolizing the present in which we must live (Psalm 118:24; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:13). As the saying goes, “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift, which is why we call it the present.”

Jesus warned us not to worry about the future (Matthew 6:25-34), but instead to ask Him for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3), which He will provide just as He provided daily manna for the Israelites on their wilderness journey (Exodus 16:15-34). Although we are not to dwell in the past, or to let Satan rub our noses in our past mistakes, we should constantly remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness.

If we remember that He is faithful and just to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9), Satan cannot use these as a weapon against us. The prophet Samuel took a special stone and named it Ebenezer to remind the people of the LORD’s great help against their enemies (1 Samuel 7:12).

In the dream, we were walking along the bank of the moat, which was used in ancient times to separate, distance, and protect the castle and its inhabitants from invaders in the world. Similarly, Scripture warns us to keep ourselves separate from the world, by being decently different in our speech, lifestyle and dress, and to be holy as God is holy (Romans 12:1;1 John 2:15; 1 Peter 1:15-16).

Although I didn’t recognize her in the dream, I realize now that the young blonde girl with the braid represents my former self, and that she resembled me as a teenager. Even as a child, I loved collecting and preserving memorabilia. The art of quilting seems to symbolize how our life is pieced together from memories and building blocks of experience, and the quilt I had started making in real life was made from cloth hexagons, which I embroidered to reference places I had visited and important life events.

But I never actually finished the quilt, which is fitting, because my life still continues as a work in progress, praise God! He is piecing it together like a fine tapestry. At times I only see the rough seams, tangled threads, and knots on the reverse side of the quilt. But when I see Him in glory, He will show me the right side of the beautifully fashioned work of art He designed!

As I had attempted to preserve my past memories through quilting, I had done it on my own, without first seeking Godly counsel. Learning from the life experiences of fellow Christians, with their wisdom and advice set in a Biblical context (Proverbs 27:17; Hebrews 10:25), is one of the great benefits of being part of the church, or body of Christ (Romans 7:4; 12:5). Of course I had not done that when I began the quilt, as I was still unsaved and full of prideful self-righteousness, listening neither to Christians nor to God Himself.

It is interesting that I chose the hexagon as the pattern for my quilt blocks, as six is the number of man (Revelation 13:18). The more traditional four-sided, square quilt block reminds me of the term foursquare, which occurs in God’s directions for making holy items for His service, like the altar (Exodus 27:1; 37:25, etc.) and the breastplate (Exodus 39:9). It also describes the court in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 40:47) and the holy city of New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:16).

Why did the girl, representing me before I was saved, want to make her quilt on the theme of painted cities? “Painted” in Scripture generally refers to worldly adornment for purposes of seduction or ungodly pride, as in the evil queen Jezebel painting her face (2 Kings 9:30), and the rebellious nation of Israel painting her face or eyes to please false gods that could not save nor even love her (Jeremiah 4:30; Ezekiel 23:40).

The prophet Jeremiah warns the king of Judah that his city will be destroyed because of the wrongdoing of the people, but that in contrast, God will build a beautiful, spacious house of cedar painted in vermilion, a brilliant red pigment (Jeremiah 22:14), looking ahead to the shed blood of Christ that saves us from all our sins (Matthew 26:28; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:22).

If we follow the world and its idols, our lives and cities will be in shambles. But if we are saved by our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and if we trust Him to design and create the quilt of our lives, He will work in us a beautiful and miraculous masterpiece!

© 2017 Laurie Collett



Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
James reminds us that we don't know what tomorrow will hold for us, and there fore we ought to hold on to the train of thinking that if God allows, we shall go into such a town and do this and that - (James 4:14).
Over and over again news of fatal road accidents keep appearing in the media. Only this morning a fatal air crash in Australia had made it into our news headlines. It goes to show that indeed we don't know what tomorrow will bring, even if the day is meticulously planned in advance.
As for the vision of the fossil, in reality, the remains of a Roman settlement has been unearthed near the Tower of London. Some of its blackened remains suggest a fire, probably evidence of Queen Boadicea's rebellion against the Romans nearly two millennia back. The Tower of London is a fortress which was started by the Romans, then developed and flourished throughout the Middle Ages. It too boasts a moat, now dry, but retaining its form.
Wishing both aq happy New Year. God bless.

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie.

Isn't it amazing how God can take those seemingly unrelated pieces of our lives and put them together to make something beautiful for him?

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
It is so true that we are not promised tomorrow, and that we can't even take our next breath without Him. Every day, both among people we know and in the news, we hear of lives being cut short unexpectedly and way too early, at least in human terms. May we use each moment He grants us to serve Him.
Thank you for sharing your historical perspective on the Tower of London. Our family enjoyed visiting it many years ago.
May you and Alex have all blessings in 2018. God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald! It is awesome to look back and see how He brought people and events into our lives at exactly the right time and in the right way to accomplish His plan for us.
Happy New Year and God bless,