Renewal Series: God Has Not Forgotten
There's a lyric in the song "Lights Up" by Harry Styles that sings, "it'd be so sweet if things just stayed the same." In September of 2020, this song streamed from my record player, filled the air, and sat on my shoulders with the heaviness of all that the year had held. I felt the sting of this lyric deep within me because nothing was sweet and I didn't want anything to stay the same.
This same song that saw me dancing in my room many times now gave way to tears. In this same room lived my soul, heart, and mind — all exhausted from holding the grief of lives lost, the disappointment of dreams on hold, the anger of racism rampant in our socio-political climate, and the fear that God had fallen asleep in the middle of it. My soul grieved, and I was numb. Again, nothing was sweet and nothing should stay the same.
I was numb and moving from one thing to the next, hurriedly, afraid that if I stopped for too long, my fears would be confirmed: that God had forgotten about me, about us, and about all the hurt in our world. Between emails and Zoom calls, I filled every corner of my time with Instagram, podcasts, the news, or this very addicting matching game on my phone (it's called Match 3D, and if anyone knows how to get past level 98, let me know).
On that September day, I decided to stop with the hurry of the in-between. I took everything off my phone that was feeding my numbness and picked up one of the slowest activities that I could think of: crocheting.
I bought skeins of yarn and a crochet hook, and I began making a cardigan. Not just any cardigan, but a cardigan that Harry Styles had worn at a musical festival and the pattern had recently been published.
I love this cardigan because it looks like freedom and joy embodied in a garment. I had always told myself I never had the time to try to make it for myself, but on that September day, I finally did.
This cardigan is made up of what feels like hundreds of crocheted squares all sewn together, and it took me three months to make. Those three months were filled with a lot of starting over, trying again, and almost giving up. At the end, I had a cardigan and cramped hands, and I reached for my phone to download Match 3D.
Right now, you're probably yelling at me. Don't worry. I was too. Throughout those three months, I think I was waiting for something magical to happen. I was waiting for the sky to open and for the booming voice of God to either shout that He loved me or for the earth to open and swallow me whole. Spoiler alert: Neither of those things happened.
I was waiting for something dramatic to happen to knock me out of my numbness. I finished the cardigan, and I still felt numb because there had been no voice from the sky. However, as I began to show my cardigan to friends, family, and colleagues, I noticed a trend in their comments. I kept hearing that this cardigan reminded them of Joseph's coat of many colors.
You may be familiar with the account in Genesis 37, or maybe you've seen the musical, but in case you haven't, Jacob was the father of Joseph and he was deeply loved by his father. Out of this love, Jacob gave Joseph a beautiful "coat of many colors." This coat was more than just a garment because this coat signified his father's favor, blessing, great love, and recognition of Joseph's value and life.
I think I am still uncovering what God is speaking, but what I have clearly sensed in the most still and small way is that God is not sleeping. I believe He is awake, and I believe He sees us the way that Jacob saw Joseph — clothed with His favor, His deep love, and His recognition of the value of our lives.
If you continue in the story of Joseph, you will see his jealous brothers strip this coat from Joseph and sell him into slavery. Joseph becomes a slave in Egypt, put into prison for a crime he didn't commit, and still becomes the second in command to Pharaoh, the ruler over all of Egypt.
As Joseph's brothers took this coat from Jacob, I, too, have felt stripped of God's love, of His recognition, favor, love and of His awareness. I have constructed my idea of God based on my circumstances and the hurt happening around me.
In the life of Joseph, we see the many difficult situations he faced, but God never left him. His favor and His goodness still existed right in the middle of the hurt. What I have come to understand is that God's favor doesn't mean that difficult and heartbreaking things won't happen, but it does mean that God still sees us as His beloved. The way He views us is unchanging in the middle of changing circumstances; in the middle of the hurry and the numbness, we are still clothed.
I look back and cherish the time and every stitch it took for me to create this cardigan. I see that God was weaving a story. He was preparing me to be able to receive and see His love. I pray that you would be prepared to see how much you are loved. I pray that in the stillness and the smallness, you would see how God is with you in the middle of what you are holding. I pray that you would see yourself as God sees you, clothed in a cardigan of many colors, clothed in His love.
|Natalie Hagedorn currently serves as Operations Manager for the Student Care Team and Title IX Office. Natalie previously graduated from Seaver College in 2015 with her Bachelor's in Psychology.|