Not perfect, but beautiful.
The stitches aren’t tightly even, each one the same and pulled taut against the next in one long continuous line of knitted row after knitted row. There are mistakes. There are corrections.
There is learning.
But the beauty is there, unmistakable, the beauty of a gift, of an offering that took sacrifice and thoughtfulness and care.
Why else would an eight-year-old devote so much of her summer vacation to discovering the favorite colors of others and knitting them hand-made scarves to suit?
As she knits, she learns. Each scarf goes faster. Each row becomes more even.
Less mistakes. Less dropped stitches. Less recovery and fewer requests: “Mom, can you help me?” At first, I’m checking almost every row, periodically unraveling stitches to reach the start of all the trouble.
Two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes more.
Now, though, her needles fly and she doesn’t carry me mistakes to fix; she brings me finished work with pride, with joy in the making and joy in the giving.
She hasn’t made a single scarf for herself. Only for others. Even her sisters line up stuffed animals who (clearly) need mini-scarves for the fall and winter season, and she knits a special order for a toy monkey and toy cat.
But those first scarves, like the wobbly steps of a weak-kneed toddler, aren’t perfect.
Still she gives.
And they are still beautiful.
I look up on a Sunday morning from my place at the piano keys to see one of the recipients on the church stage, draped with a yellow scarf, a handmade gift from my daughter.
She wears the present with joy and I’m struck by the beauty—the beauty of one who cherishes the treasured offering of another without criticism, complaint, or the impossible standards of hostage-holding perfection.
And I’m struck by the beauty of my daughter, who gives not to show off, but to show love.
We hoard and we hide because our offerings aren’t perfect.
She’s more capable, more talented, more equipped, more recognized…
He’s more educated, more bold, more articulate….
We compare, we fret, we worry, we feel so insufficient, and so we don’t offer any gift at all for fear of the failing.
My daughter knitted this summer.
I edited, proofread, wrote.
I sat in front of a word processor staring at the final draft of my book, tasked with proofing the text for the very last time, looking for spelling errors, for periods out of place, and for missing words.
My impulse was to hold on.
It’s been over two years since I finished writing that book, and now looking back I want to tinker and adjust, alter and amend. I want to patch this here and fix that there.
But at some point, I had to attach the file to an email and hit send. Off it goes, out of my hands, into the hands of the editor and on to the printer. It’s done and I can’t go back anymore.
Perfectionism screams, “There’s always more to do. Don’t ever offer up what isn’t absolutely right.”
But then there would be no offering.
Not now. Not ever. I’d wake up one day long from now and realize that I never gave because what I had was never good enough.
Better to offer as my daughter does:
Giving with passion…
Giving with love…
Giving out of hard work and effort and time…
Growing, learning, improving, but only through the doing and the giving…. That is, after all, how we learn, not with the giving up or the hiding away, not with the wishing for more or the lost opportunities.
We learn through the mistakes, through the process, through the work itself and through the handing it over, an offering to God, a gift to others.
God didn’t call perfect people or those already equipped.
He called those willing to go and do.
Like the prophet, Amos, we know our own weaknesses, but we give anyway:
Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’ (Amos 7:14-15 NIV)
A shepherd. A fig-grower. That’s what he was.
God received the glory.
Thus, we lay down our gifts all full of holes and mistakes, with corrections and revisions, ones that aren’t perfect but ones that we labored over long. We place them down on the altar and offer them up for His use, for His glory, for His name.
And then we go back and strive again, never for ourselves, always to give anew.
Never giving perfect. Instead, giving all.
Heather King is a busy-but-blessed wife and mom, a Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2013 Heather King