I once sought assistance at the emergency room for severe pain in my chest and arm. After my initial evaluation, the ER doctor decided it would be prudent to keep me in the hospital for two days to monitor my condition and order tests. In the end, it was determined that my heart was healthy and that my symptoms were caused by stress. I was sent home with only one prescription: Chill Out.
The hospital was a depressing place. While I tip my hat to the hardworking aides, nurses, and doctors who attended me during my brief stay, I cannot say I am desirous to return. My family visited me as they were able, but there were still long hours of boredom and worry. It was, ironically, a stressful experience.
I was fortunate to receive two visits from my church’s pastoral staff. I received comfort, prayer, and a tangible reminder of the love of my fellow church members – a handmade prayer shawl.
The shawl was soft and lovely. It was a bright spot of warm red in a room that would have otherwise been an unrelieved sterile white. A generous size, it was large enough to spread over my bed and use as a small blanket when I slept. Every time someone entered my room they remarked on its beauty. Each time I looked at it, I remembered the prayers that went into every stitch. When I wrapped myself up in it, it was like a hug from a friend. I wasn’t alone anymore.
Since then, I have continued to use it often. The yarn is pilled and the fringe is tangled, but it is still beautiful to me. I remember with clarity the joy of receiving it and the comfort it brought me. When I use it, I’m reminded that, as Christians, we are taught to be God’s hands in the world. When I first checked in the hospital, I was overwhelmed by fear. I had head knowledge of God’s love for me, but His caring presence was absent in my heart. The shawl helped me, in a real and meaningful way, remember that I was loved.
Our church recently started a prayer shawl ministry. It is an honor to use my crochet skills to help create shawls and lap blankets so that others might also feel God’s presence in times of need. Making a shawl is a blessing to me – not quite the same experience as receiving one, but just as powerful. I don’t always know who is going to receive the shawl, but I know that God does and I trust he will make sure it goes to the right person. You don’t have to be a member of our church to receive one. God’s love is for everyone.
Crochet is by its quiet nature a meditative experience, and it is easy to lose myself in the ebb and flow of each stitch. As I work, I pray for the recipients and ask that the garments will remind them they are not alone as they face their personal challenges. If a shawl is given to celebrate the birth of a baby, I ask that the parents be blessed and be given wisdom and strength for the task of raising a child. The possibilities for giving are endless. A prayer shawl is an appropriate gift anytime you want to share God’s love.
It might sound strange, but I believe every stitch binds us together in the body of Christ.