My uncle travels frequently for work and finds himself all over the world. I love to hear stories of his journeys. Over the holiday, we got to reconnect and he told me about a visit to China this past year.
On the trip, he seized the opportunity to visit the China National Silk Museum. He recounted the lengthy process that silkworms go through to generate the silk. The eggs become larvae and eat continuously for a time, typically 21 days. Continuously. With focus and zeal and eyes on the prize.
After all the eating, it’s time to vomit.
Silkworms produce their valuable silk through a whole lot of up-chucking. Really. Silkworms create their highly-desirable, pricey silk by spewing out thread from holes in their jaws, which they use to spin into their egg-bearing cocoons.
My jaw dropped as my uncle described that process. Silk, arguably one of the most valued and finest fabrics, originates from overeating and then throwing the eff up. Nothing glamorous about that.
But the real process has yet to begin. After the silkworm leaves its cocoon, workers take the silk and weave the threads together. Typically, the worm has created one mile worth of silk thread. Labor-intensive, to say the least.
I can’t get that story out of my head.
Also floating around in my head these days: connect. Connect was my word for 2012. I chose the word with a heart for extending and building and strengthening ties . . . ties with others, with God, with myself even.
On New Year’s Eve 2012, I look back on the “year of connect” with this weird feeling. It’s not regret, it’s just-give-me-one-more-damn-month. Like I can connect so much better with an extra 30 days or something? Like I haven’t checked “connect” off my to-do list yet?
I tried. I tried and stumbled. I pressed on and fell back. Familiar, isn’t it? It’s perfection I always strive for and perfection I never quite reach.
But maybe, I realize, I’m missing the whole point of it. I’m missing the process.
Were I to rewrite the story of the silkworm, I’d edit out the throw-up phase and have the worms create the silk in some other, more dignified way. I’d edit out the phase where the workers unravel miles of thread and weave it together and I’d focus on the less laborious aspects. (And were you the editor, you might too.)
But that’s the thing about how God works. He makes much of our process, our messes, our vomit.
(And yeah, I’m stretching the analogy, but it’s my blog so I do what I want.)
So it went with the year of connect. My efforts were far from perfect, and the whole thing was a laborious process, but God still redeemed it.
This year, with grace alone, we moved across the region. New jobs, new home, new this, new that. New business. Relatively new marriage. Trying to reestablish old friendships here in KC and keep the ones in Indiana alive and continue connecting with friends from before all of this. Process. Difficult work, and yeah, vomit.
Sometimes, my efforts bore no fruit. But sometimes, the whole thing was fruitful after all. That’s where grace comes in. Grace means freedom despite imperfection. Grace means joy in spite of it all. Grace means joy in the process, in the mess, in the slow effort for rich results.
God’s going to make much of all this up-chuck. Really, He already has.
PS – Tomorrow: My one word for 2013.