While I slept, it was as if my necklaces came alive, exiting their snake charmers’ baskets, weaving and winding themselves into a colorful tangle from which there was no end and no beginning.

Each time I opened the drawer of my nightstand table, I’d meet a messy mass of beads and string. Months ago, I lifted the strands one by one to the two cup hooks cranked into my bedroom wall. The snarl of chains — tamed. There.

Sunday morning, as my family pulled on shoes and coats downstairs, I tried pulling my long, dainty string of brown seed beads from the rest on the hook. Snarled. The more I pulled, the tighter the necklace held to the others. What had happened to their separate neatness?

I plucked the whole mess from the wall, pushing my fingers between the strands. They constricted. I glanced at the clock and tried to work faster. Smarter. I unclasped an especially troubling three-strand offender from the rest and considered lacing one of its ends through a loop. I stopped, looked at the pile of knots in my hands and felt a familiar reminder echoing from the deep: Lay it down. 

I placed the tangle on my bed.

Today, I look at the places my life still tangles.

After the soul-searching and accountability and healing, I want to know, haven’t I done everything I need to pull the strands apart and lay them just so — on hooks perhaps — neat, tidy and packaged in a way I can name and claim and move on from forever and ever, amen?

My daughter spills 1% all across the counter, down the cupboard door, across the newly cleaned kitchen floor, and I feel the frustration rise. Haven’t I extracted my own expectations of perfection from the eyes that gaze on my first-born?

A daughter snaps a rubber band at another’s waist, cries that she’s being ignored; the final trudge to bed is slow and tedious and chaotic, and I expect them all to just do what I want them to do. Haven’t I pulled apart that they are humans making choices and that their job in this world is not to meet my desire for just-so? Have I not yet understood that part of their work in this world is to learn conflict and peace, hurt and connection, pain and forgiveness, and that I cannot do it for them?

I feel unrecognized for a contribution I’ve made, forgotten by a friend, and I taste the bitter and feel the sting and the knots bind my stomach. Haven’t I extracted my desire to be fully seen by my little world with the truth that God is the only one who knows me completely, and it is for him that I do whatever I do?

Then these words again: lay it down.

My Savior is more than able to untie the knots that bind me tangled, and he does, and he has. I am so grateful. But often he tells me to take the snarls of life beads catching on one another and surrender. I will continue to struggle. I will continue to need. Surrender.

Trying harder, doing more, fighting faster or stronger to separate the strands is not going to change the struggles we face sometimes. Instead, lay it down and trust in the One who holds the tangles and loves us still.

When we surrender the places knotted and bound, we are free to accept his pure, sweet grace and his perfect strength.

We can even embrace that he is using those places of our greatest need to guide the way we relate to a hurting world. For each and every traveler is a confused stumbler along the journey — all knotted up, with no earthly way out.

Only His way.

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