India is famous as a place of vibrant colors and textures. One of my favorite things to do is spend time at the many fabric markets in which these colors and textures take up several streets in towering mounds of cascading beauty and design.
Since I moved to India I have fallen in love with the block print method of fabric dyeing. It is intricate and beautiful – and a lot of work! Each color is stamped individually by hand. Some pieces require over 20 stamps to be used!
First the stamps are carved out of wood and the height levels of each color must be determined so that all of the stamps work together to make the correct pattern once the colors have all been stamped. The printer lays out the fabric and puts the stamps in order, and then stamps each inch of the fabric, one color at a time. Slowly the fabric begins to take on a pattern and finally is covered in dye resulting in a beautiful kaleidoscope of color and design.
The process is painstakingly tedious, but the beauty that results is so unique. A piece of cloth that starts out so plain transforms into something intricately beautiful and costly. The Lord showed me the way that this process mirrors the process of our lives. We each begin as a plain piece of cloth that the rest of the world would see as dull, boring and insignificant. He toils tirelessly picking out the perfect colors of our lives, and measuring out the lines that will need to intersect in our lives in just the perfect place to create something that in the end, is a masterpiece.
A question I am often asked is whether or not the women with whom we work are “believers.” I internally cringe each time this question is asked because it is such a difficult question to answer. Not because they don’t know Jesus or believe in Him – that I can answer with a resounding “yes!” because they do know Him and they are experiencing Him at work every day in their lives. It is difficult to answer because each of these precious daughters are in the midst of a process; a messy process. But there is such beauty in the mess.
It is estimated that on average for a person who was at one time committed to Hinduism it takes seven to nine years from the time that the person discovers Jesus to the time when he or she forsakes all other gods to follow only Christ. At what point along that process does that person become a “believer?”
From what I have seen and experienced, I believe that the Lord honors the moment in which a person first encounters Him and begins to put their faith, hope and trust in Him. I have seen a woman take the tiniest step of faith – maybe just asking for prayer for the first time – and in those moments of faith witnessed the Lord faithfully show up in miraculous ways. When He walked on the earth Jesus responded to faith in the same way. How many times did a simple act of faith bring healing from the hands of Jesus? The lame man lowered through the roof, the ten lepers (even the nine who didn’t come back to thank Him)…Jesus’ response every time; “your faith has made you well.”
In our human lives, we are constantly in a process. It is an ongoing process of discovering more in our relationship with the Lord, and becoming more like Him as we follow His voice. I have the privilege of witnessing what may be some of the messiest processes on earth in the lives of the precious daughters in the red light areas. But it is a process that is full of life and hope. In those initial steps of faith I have witnessed these sisters receiving their first stamps of color and life from the Creator. For a while it can be difficult for us as observers to make out the patterns that the Lord is forming in their hearts. There may be brilliant streaks of vibrant color followed by yards and yards of plain nothingness. But the color bears witness to the hope of glory held in the hand of the loving Craftsman who is creating breakthrough in her understanding of His love for her, as He constantly woos her towards His heart.
Are these women believers? Absolutely. Do they have all of the details of their lives sorted out? Not by any means. But their process is a beautiful mess that bears witness to the redeeming and transforming love of their Maker and Savior. In childlike faith they come, and in His faithfulness He receives them. A more beautiful testimony of grace I have yet to behold.