Weaving and Metaphor Manual work and the Life of the Spirit.

Work, land, weaving, metaphor and the life of the spirit. Liturgy of Life. liturgyoflife.com


A friend recently gave us a dish towel that she wove herself on a loom. After closing our gaping mouths we stuttered in awe, not realizing that anyone (other than in historic Williamsburg) actually knew how to use a loom these days.  We asked about her craft and she explained that she took up weaving, in part, when she realized how often in writing, weaving was used as a metaphor to understand life itself.


The conversation brought to mind mind some of the great metaphors of the Christian faith,  a shepherd tending his sheep, a farmer tending his vineyard, the potter shaping its clay.  It dawned on me that when these words were first spoken they weren’t just given as ideas, they didn’t say  “You can imagine that God shaping you is like the way someone might shape clay into a vessel, you have to form it and mold it, yahda yahda yahda.” Quite the opposite, many who heard this spoken had  probably, at least at some point, molded clay with their hands.  All the talk about shepherds and farmers in our scriptures aren’t just quaint stories, rather they speak to us of an alternative reality, where work allows us to understand and experience the deep complexities of life with Christ.


Reading Wendell Berry for in our reading group,

“The growth of the exploiters’ revolution on this continent has been accompanied by the growth of the idea that work is beneath human dignity, particularly any form of hand work. We have made it our overriding ambition to escape work, and as a consequence have debased work until it is only fit to escape from.

But . . People are joined to the land by work. . . Work connects us to both Creation and to eternity.”


When we see work as the thing that must be done between 8-5 in order to earn a paycheck, as our work is ever more cerebral, about ideas and information, or when physically it requires of us only the most basic skills, standing on an assembly line doing the same repetitive motion, we loose our connection with land and with humanity. And because we know God through  land and humanity we loose our connection with him too.  Of course He is still there, but it becomes harder for us to remember that.


Forsaking our roles as cultivators of land and escaping manual labor we have gained some leisure in life.  But I wonder if perhaps we have lost something far more important. Something that drew us as humans into a physical understanding of communion with God, of life as sacrament and left us with a hollow frame of what was once our faith.  Perhaps no amount of thinking can help us regain what we may find if we sit down at a loom and begin weaving.


Thanks for being here,




This post is part of a series of reflections on The Art of The Commonplace. For more Liturgy of Life, subscribe or follow on facebook. To learn more about our reading group, click here, or check out our facebook group. We would love to have you read and ponder along with us.





  • Elizabeth Reply

    Wonderful post! My daughters and I have been sharing fiber arts (raising sheep, shearing, spinning, weaving, etc.) since they were little. It is a great joy (and revelation to others) to share about these very human skills done by hands and hearts, usually by women, everywhere on earth since we first needed fabric. Glifs in the pyramids show women spinning (with drop spindles) and literally every culture in mandkind had these skills widely known, done and understood, until now. So important to know how to use our hands, if only to know and understand the meanings and implications of the parables and symbolism, for starters. I have written an entire series of poems invoking fiber arts experiences and imagry because this is so important, has been so important, in the life of our family as well as the life and lessons shared in the holy scriptures. I love what W. Berry says about work and connection. That is so very true. Bravo for another great post.

    • egjarrett Reply

      Thanks Elizabeth, There is something powerful about creating something in this way, realizing that this is the way we have been making fabrics since forever, and really it hasn’t changed though now a days machines often do it for us, the process is the same. Useful arts like this feel very unifying, with people of the past and future, and also economically, weaving is something poor and rich can do (though unfortunately it is less accessible these days). I’m so glad (though a little jealous) that you got to have this experience with your family.

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