Untying Our Knots

I was in Seattle recently–Holy Week, actually–and I stopped inside a Catholic chapel in my friends’ neighborhood. This icon, known as Mary the Undoer of Knots, was on display. I’d never encountered it before, and something about it really resonated with me.

We live in a society filled with people who are seemingly tied up in knots. We are anxious and on edge and stressed and concerned and angry and confused and uncertain. If there’s one word to describe what I’ve both felt and noticed all around me recently, it’s overwhelm.

Something about this icon cut through the noise of all of that and reminded me of a beautiful truth: the knots may be tied, but they can also be untied. 

I have deep appreciation for Mary. She had such lovely faith, and most Protestants tend to underestimate her strength and relegate her to the Christmas story. She has much wisdom to teach us. But I hope to say respectfully that perhaps the deepest wisdom this icon offered me was not to pray to Mary to untie the knots, but to go about the faithful work of untying them myself, with God’s help.

And that begins by remembering that string can be both tied and untied, and we have human hands capable of both.

Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself:

What knots am I carrying in my hands?

What might these knots be telling me?

Have I relinquished control of some of my knots to others? Have I given others the power to make knots with my name on them? Do they deserve that power?

This week, as I recall those quiet moments in that church in Seattle, and as I sit in my own fluctuating feelings of overwhelm, I’m asking my knots their names. I’m trying to gaze on them with love, the little bundles. They probably don’t like being tied up any more than I like feeling being tied up. And then I’m asking God to give me wisdom and faith enough to untie them, if possible, and to have compassion on them, if not.

I wonder where you are with your knots this week?

Wherever you are, may God breathe peace, and may you be reminded that the Spirit of God brings space into even the most cramped, tangled, and knotted places.

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