I love fall. The weather has cooled down, at least insofar as the temperature is below 90 in the daytime and reasonably fresh, 70 or so, in the evenings. What deciduous trees we have near where I live are thinking about changing colors, although most of them will not be completely gone from the trees until sometime just before Christmas. It’s been a standing joke that the leaves don’t fall until Christmas Eve.
With the cooler evenings and the earlier twilights, it’s nice to sit in my comfortable rocking chair, with a cat on my lap, either reading or knitting in front of the fake fireplace that’s the best I can do in a tin can for a house that would catch fire in a heartbeat. Still, even the dancing of fake flames makes things seem more cozy, even if I don’t get the scent of burning wood, and who needs extra heat when the air conditioner turns on because the indoor temperature is still above 80 degrees?
As I sat here and knitted this evening, I suddenly discovered that I had committed an egregious error in my knitting some rows back. Drat. I was going along so well. The stitches were even as were the rows, I was making progress, and then calamity. Complicating the whole situation was that I was knitting with three colors and that makes for another problem. As it turns out, I had to frog at least six rows, including a number that has alternating colors in the row. I hate frogging because it’s a failure. It takes some time to get the stitches pulled out down to the spot where the stitch is wrong, the error needs fixing, and then I have to go back to where I was initially. I wish I were a better knitter.
It made me think about life. I put the knitting down and look at what I’ve gotten done for a moment. It looks nice now that I’ve gotten the mistake out, but now I’ve got to put all those stitches back in that I had to remove. I think about the times of my life when I have had to go back and try to fix errors that I have made, and if I can’t take them out, I need to try to fix them and learn from them. It’s not easy. It is much harder in life because there’s no real way to frog it like there is in knitting, to take my life back to a point in the past and then re-live everything from that point onward.
Scripturally, I recall verses that tell me that if I acknowledge my sin, I will be forgiven. Even if I don’t admit it, I’m forgiven in God’s eyes. In my own, that’s an entirely different story. The error feels like it gets bigger and bigger. I look at it until I wish I could rip out the whole of my life and either start over again or forget the whole thing entirely. It’s difficult to forgive someone who has wronged me, but it’s so much harder to forgive myself for what I’ve done to myself and others. I can apologize, I can try and make amends, but somehow those amends don’t seem to get as far as my own inner workings. Like a botched piece of knitting, it sticks out like a sore thumb, even if I’m the only one who notices it.
I’m sure that the disciples had occasions where they wish they could have gone back and changed things, like the times that they didn’t catch on to what Jesus was trying to teach them, even though the model was right in front of them. Jesus didn’t use whiteboards or PowerPoint presentations, but they had the example of his life. They were with him every day, so how could they be so dense? How could they miss so many things when he tried to teach them new ways of looking at things, new ways of doing them?
It’s odd. I think of the women in the New Testament, like the woman at the at the well, the one with the hemorrhage, Mary and Martha, the woman who argued with Jesus about the crumbs under the table, and others. Instinctively, they seem to get it when Jesus talked. They weren’t afraid to speak to him, and they weren’t necessarily slow at understanding what he was saying. They didn’t have to frog anything, because their patterns were knit correctly. Just sayin’.
Psalm 13 9:14b speaks of, “…you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Every knitter who is a Bible student knows that one. And, come to think of it, it is a good thing to think about. We don’t just suddenly appear out of our mother’s uterus in the same state in which we began. We did a lot of growing in the nine-month period of incubation. Just like knitting and colors, slowly we grew fingers and toes, eyes and a nose, our heart began to beat, and other organs start to work until finally at the end of all those months, we emerge as an entire being.
Of course, there’s heartbreak in there too: babies born with life-threatening conditions, others born with severe diseases, life-altering disabilities, and some who never make it out of the womb. Bad things sometimes happen due to genetics, environmental issues, any one of a number of things. Some of those things we could fix by merely frogging some of our ideas and inventions and redoing them in a cleaner, healthier way, though we are too in love with progress.
While I knit, I think about what I’m doing, but I also think about what I’m learning. I’m practicing patience, something that’s in better supply than it was when I was 10 or 20 years younger. I’m a little more adventurous, trying stitches and patterns that are more complicated than I had tried before, and not being afraid to frog as many rows as I need to fix what I did wrong. Now if I can do that in my life, I would be much better off, wouldn’t I? If I could approach life with the same care and attention, I might come out of this thing with a lovely garment. And if I live the way I should, with constant attention to what I’ve been taught about and by Jesus, then I may get to the end of my earthly garment and find myself queuing up for a place in the heavenly kingdom, where no frogging will ever be needed.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and -retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She is also owned by three cats.