From all of our beginnings, we keep reliving the Garden story. Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave. Isn’t that the catalyst of all my sins? Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other. Standing before that tree, laden with fruit withheld, we listen to Evil’s murmur, “In the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened …” (Genesis 3:5 NASB). But in the beginning, our eyes were already open. Our sight was perfect. Our vision let us see a world spilling with goodness. Our eyes fell on nothing but the glory of God. We saw God as He truly is: good. But we were lured by the deception that there was more to a full life, there was more to see. And, true, there was more to see: the ugliness we hadn’t beheld, the sinfulness we hadn’t witnessed, the loss we hadn’t known. We eat. And, in an instant, we are blind. No longer do we see God as one we can trust. No longer do we perceive Him as wholly good. No longer do we observe all of the remaining paradise. We eat. And, in an instant, we see. Everywhere we look, we see a world of lack, a universe of loss, a cosmos of scarcity and injustice. We are hungry. We eat. We are filled … and emptied. And still, we look at the fruit and see only the material means to fill our emptiness. We don’t see the material world for what it is meant to be: as the means to communion with God. We look and swell with the ache of a broken, battered planet, what we ascribe as the negligent work of an indifferent Creator (if we even think there is one). Do we ever think of this busted-up place as the result of us ingrates, unsatisfied, we who punctured it all with a bite? The fruit’s poison has infected the whole of humanity. Me. I say no to what He’s given. I thirst for some roborant, some elixir, to relieve the anguish of what I’ve believed: God isn’t good. God doesn’t love me. If I’m ruthlessly honest, I may have said yes to God, yes to Christianity, but really, I have lived the no. I have. Infected by that Eden mouthful, the retina of my soul develops macular holes of blackness. From my own beginning, my sister’s death tears a hole in the canvas of the world.
Voskamp, Ann. One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (pp. 15-16). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
While reading these words the mic dropped, a moment of clarity, the happening of that moment of the giving up of the presence of God for the wanting of more, not recognizing what was lost. Once we enjoyed the beauty of the created world, including our very self, and we gave it up for a thing. An object. In that moment we objectified our very self, turning away from the beauty of the created world, and more importantly the gift and beauty of our very self. We lost, no we gave up: joy, delight, peace. Our inherent beauty still lives. We miss it for the objects around us, those shiny things we want, that have the intent of satisfying the longing, and leave us wanting more stuff to fill the emptiness we deeply experience in the giving up and in taking on the wanting objects.
In grabbing for, in taking the object things became the center of our core, rather than the people in front of us, rather than God, rather than an ability to appreciate the created world. If this were a meme today it would say, “You had this one rule.” (Note: God wouldn’t make this meme.) The lie: that we would then be equal to God, our loving, compassionate Creator. We grasped at this believing the lie, exercising free-will with the first disastrous results.
While reading this an image of a hole forming at the bottom of our, my, soul, with the water of life draining, swirling around, and around, turbulent and furious, leaving me thirsting for the water of life, while it drains down. I could almost see this image in a quilt, almost. And the words are swirling in my brain, trying to grab the them to share.
Work, once fulfilling, became difficult. Entering into relationships with others became so much work as we now tried to hide from, cover up with a leaf. Others always want something from us, something that we don’t want to, or don’t feel that we can give. And when we do give, there is an attachment, a condition, a rule.
Over and over again God shows us that it is the relationship with Him, and with one another is of primary importance. The rest of it is stuff, an apple hanging in a tree. Lust, envy, jealousy, power, became part of the relationship with our self, and with those around us. Because of that Thing.
I’m really good at free motion machine quilting. I’m owning that as there’s been a lot of hard work, frustration, angst, and ah-ha moments that went into getting there. I still struggle at times, there are days when I wonder if it’ll ever work. Will I ever master this skill. In some way I make this Thing my god. (Hang with me here, please.) Longing to get picked to do things, participate in events, and win ribbons and be like, quilt like, the people I admire. On more than one occasion I said, “I want to be you when I grow up.” the intent being a compliment.
God spoke to my heart one afternoon allowing me to see, and realize that this “compliment” is rooted in envy, and jealousy. I stopped saying that. The thing is I don’t really want to be that person, nor do I actually want to quilt like them. I want to quilt like me, whatever that looks like. When, “I want to be you when I grow up” is said to me there is a new level of compassion because I get it. We want to quilt in a way that others experience a deep sense of beauty.
This shift in thinking led to complimenting the work of other quilters directly either in the beauty of how the quilting complements the patchwork or in the skill to do the work. As a teacher the compliments and encouragement for my students remains the same, with a bit of a focus shift from being like me, to being the best they can be in this complicated, multi-level art.
It’s also shifted how quilts are given: without reservations or attachments or anxiety about how the quilt will be used.
This shift doesn’t make me holy, holier than thou, or even good. It allows me to acknowledge the work I’ve done to become a better quilter, and develop this talent And to recognize and honor the work, skill, and talent of other quilt makers. I trip over rocks occasionally and skin my knees, saying stupid things. But, I’m a quilter with goals, and dreams, that are going to take some hard work to achieve.
Prayer: God of Mercy and Compassion, allow me to enter more deeply into the work you have given me to do, to recognize your Love and draw life from it. Help me to use jealousy, and envy as stepping stones of grace. Let each stitch that I take today honor you. Amen.