Some years ago I had the chance to visit Israel. We toured the entire country, studying archeology, learning about the history and seeing first hand the strain of so many years of conflict and violence. We met many people whose stories of loss, pain, hope and faith will stay with me for a lifetime.
One woman I met changed my view of life.
She was an old woman when I met her in the old city of Jerusalem. She made stoles for a living. As I was browsing through her store, I asked her how she started making them, supposing that she was some poor woman who spotted a niche in selling stoles to American pastors who are always looking for some good “bling” for their robes.
Instead, she told me about her life. Many years before, her three children had been with her in the market one day and had the bad luck of being too close to a suicide bomber. She was off buying some vegetables for their dinner that evening when she heard someone scream. She looked back just in time to watch her children – her life – as they were blown from the face of the earth. Can you imagine the horror of this? Can you imagine the sheer unspeaking, crushing pain of this?
She spent the next year of her life in a numb fog, trying to understand how and why this could happen. Until finally, she stopped. She awoke one morning realizing that there are no good answers to these questions. What would answers bring her anyway? What she had to do was to decide how to live.
Her way of living in the midst of her woundedness was to start making these stoles. To her, they became signs of peace and symbols of God’s unfailing love. She has a vision of clergy all across the world wearing them as they stand in pulpits, march in protests, and sit with the sick. In her brokenness, she turned to love, gifting us all with her testimony, her handmade art, and her unfailing grace.
When I found the stole I wanted to buy, she placed it over my shoulders. Looking me in the eyes, she said “This is a symbol of peace that I give to you this day. May every day of your life bring peace to our earth and love to all people.” It was the most powerful commissioning I have ever known.
Were I to suffer such terrible loss in my life, I pray that I would have the faith and strength that she has. She could have become deeply bitter. She could have sought revenge. She could have lived with biting anger. But instead, she decided to live believing that God is love and grace is true.
I don’t know her name. I wish I did. But when I put on that stole, I give thanks that by grace her life touched mine.
How are you turning your wounds into signs of grace? I think, in the end, that is what Love is finally about.
We are in this together,
Blessing for the Week
May the cycle of your life
help you come of age
as you learn that each pass
brings out something new
within you all along
but made visible only
from the cracks you gain
along the way.