The other day as I packed up at the end of a shop appointment I put a couple of file folders with orders in a sample suitcase rather than in one of the two bags that I use as offices, one for each company. When I got home this sent me into a bit of a tizz as I knew I had the folders with the orders, but putting my hands on them wasn’t quite so easy. As I’m poking through the office bags a flash of memory happened and I knew where the files were located. Phew!
One of the things I listen for in advertising is superlatives, “the best”, “better than” “this product will do ‘x’ for you” “this product will give you better this or that” or “this will make your life so much better” or “10 better ways to have the perfect life”, “19 tips that will make you the best quilter ever”, “if only you’d dress better, speak well on the phone and look like this you’ll be the most successful person EVER”.
I am, at this very moment, sitting at my dining room table (office) wondering how I can be the very best at several things: being a sales rep (already fell down and skinned my knees and hands, chucked my own chin on that one hooo boy let me tell ya), best author (I tend to use too many words), best quilter (uh nope there are way better quilters than me out there), best blogger (uh nope I totally get it), and best wife (my Sweetie thinks so anyway even when I fall down and skin my knees and hands and…).
The thing is in the advertising superlatives is that they focus in on an idealized, ever shifting, homogeneous 2-D image of womanhood. These words hold up against and ideal that is unattainable, and set us up for disappointment and shame in our self, and in our work. When we give into the words of shifting superlatives and perfection we begin to think that we’re not worthy of pursuing the work we’re called to, of going through the process of doing better work, we forget that there are times that we’re doing to stumble and fall and it’s going to hurt. And it does hurt. Just a few weeks ago I really screwed something up. I saw how it happened. But hearing “not impressed” was something of a punch in the gut that decided to stay with me as I set out to do the work I’ve been given. I can hear the words racing through my brain about how bad I am that I’m no good, that I’m not worthy of this good work that, I’m a failure. In a moment of love, a friend reached out to me and asked how I’m doing. After chatting for a moment she said to keep my head up.
You see, when I, when we keep our heads up we’re looking at Jesus. When we’re looking at Jesus then we know there are good solutions. It might be painful, just like the Way of the Cross that we’re about to delve into over the next several weeks of Lent. On his way to His crucifixion Jesus fell on streets paved with stone, I can only imagine how bone-jarring this is given what He’d already endured. I’m sure people were hurling insults too, because well, we do that in groups, we gang up on people, doing our best to put them in their place. There!
Looking at Jesus journey to the Cross I can see there are times when stumbling and falling is going to happen. I can also see what happens after, there is new life, there is resurrection. These things happen. Just look at our Saints, our bothers and sisters who have gone on before us Oh WOW some of these folks were serious sinners. And yet, they responded to God wholeheartedly, without reservation. I think of my own patron Saint, Therese who comes off as a bit of a syrupy sweet, spoiled brat and yet responded to the Love of God in ways that have rocked my world.
As a quilter I’ve struggled, reading my blog or listening when I speak will tell you that. It’s funny now but when I stitched a finger, or cut that same finger with a rotary cutter, miscut fabric, or took out 90% of all the stitching in a quilt because it wasn’t right. In those moments, and in recent moments oh how I thought about what a failure I am. But those same moments for other quilters find me saying things like, “this happens to all of us” and “be kinder to your self, you’re learning” and “a seam ripper is a quilters best friend”. In some ways there are moments where I feel a complete fraud because I fail to live up to those very things I say to others. But I’m not a fraud, or fake because doing those things taught me so much, how to help quilters be kinder to themselves, to not compare themselves to other quilters, to find their own quilting path to not live up to some idealized image of what being a quilter looks like.
This is daily life, we fall down, we get up, we learn from the experience and we move forward. Quilting is a great reminder of that. Quilting is a great reminder of what not to point out to others. I am conscious of my double chin and you are conscious of my smile and great joy in seeing you. I’m aware that I don’t have all the answers, but you know I have the one you need, or that I’ll find out for you. I experience discouragement deeply, you know that I have a word of encouragement for you because lifting you up, and helping you see the good things about you is essential to your growth as a quilt maker. If you ask I’ll share with you how to correct those things you don’t like however I’ll also tell you about how they add character to your quilt.
The best, and the perfect, and the 19 ways to improve your quilting don’t matter one whit. You do. We all want to be better, to overcome our flaws, that only happens by falling down, skinning our knees and hands, and allowing God, the Father of Mercy to pick us up and heal us, using those things that we’re irritated by, that we see as flaws to become something more for others. The wave of shame that washed over me yesterday in gazing too long at mistakes I’d made, is replaced by the peace that comes from leaning into God’s grace and working towards remedying those mistakes and walking with a friend through a tough moment.
It’s time to let go of this idealized image of perfection, and aim for my best work in this moment. It’s okay to ask for help, even when I don’t know exactly what to ask. It’s okay to struggle as this leads to growth and deeper friendship with God.
May the Grace of Lent lead you closer to Jesus.