In an essay, author Margret Silf wrote about the power of contemplating the Celtic Knot. She wrote “that if you try to find the single thread, you may find yourself lost in this intricate pattern that is a hallmark of the Celtic imagination. Your mind is occupied as if by a mantra, leaving your deeper consciousness more open to the whispers of eternity.

“The knot,” she writes, “holds us in a state of suspended contradiction. We understand that we are finite. The knot contradicts this knowledge with its representation of infinity and endlessness, and in our depths we know this is true: something of us is unending – or at least intimately joined to a reality that is unending, a reality we name as God.”

Our lives are a mass of complications, with threads that go off in different directions. As Silf poetically says, “these divergent, paths and tensions are beaten into a kind of shape on the anvil of our existence.” Now that’s a harsh metaphor, yet if I am honest, I know when my life feels out of control, flying off on a variety of tangents, I try to sledge hammer it into some sort of coherency.

That’s a far cry from the balance of the infinite knot which points to a deeper truth.

The knot is an icon of paradox on many levels: complexity held within simplicity, finitude held within the infinite, our individual selves held in something vastly greater than ourselves.

I have grown to appreciate the richness of paradox, preferring the mystery of both/and to the sharp divide of the either/or, though it takes more energy to stay with paradox. I’d prefer a simple straightforward answer, yet when I remain open to the paradox, I find a richness within. This is especially true about finding ourselves held in something infinitely greater than ourselves, a wholeness where we are all held. I will share an experience where the meaning of those words rang true.

On an April morning in 2016, I woke up in my bed for the first time in four weeks. I had been in Boston undergoing a stem cell transplant. The house was still, as if it were holding its breath, waiting to exhale into a new day. Everything around me was familiar, and just as I had left it.

Everything, however, was different, because I was not the same woman. I was different. The experience of the transplant had changed me, in ways yet to be revealed. Now I was in this blessedly familiar space, feeling alien and untethered – there but not there. It was an unsettling feeling.

Then I remembered a similar feeling 35 years ago, waking up in a different room, in a house quiet and peaceful on another spring morning. I opened my eyes and saw all the familiar things, but I knew that everything had changed. I experienced a profound disconnect. Then in the silence, the house and I exhaled as I heard the soft noise of a baby, a son born a few days before. Of course, I felt changed. I was a new mother and I was awaking to a new life.

On that April morning, I found the thread that connected two of the most profound experiences of my life, making them part of a whole. I thought, too, of our daughter who that morning was also waking up to a new life. Her daughter and our granddaughter had been born the day before. I wondered if, as I was waking to a changed life, she was also waking to a quiet house that held its breath, waiting to exhale into a new day and new life. I wondered if she, too, was brought back by the fussing of a newborn. I could sense within a deep connection to the whole, woven into the fabric of life, woven into the fabric of the Holy.

I believe we all have moments such as these, moments when we feel unfamiliar to ourselves, untethered and adrift from our lives. In such moments we might receive the gift of a thread, one that pulls us into a pattern we may not have seen, but which invites us to recognize how we are part of a continuous weaving of blessing.

Too often, I want to organize and control all those threads. The Celtic knot encourages me to embrace the mysterious pattern that is a life, to live with the both/and, finding that God abides in the space created by the warp and the weft.

On that April morning, I was graced with a thread that traveled back to my past, wrapped around my present and spun out into the future and the life of my daughter and grand-daughter. I knew that I and those I loved were held within a web of infinite care and blessing.

The Rev. Janet Dorman is pastor at Foreside Community Church, UCC, in Falmouth. She can be contacted at [email protected]