by Erica Green
For those females amongst us who have completed their high school education some 30 years ago, at a small school with little in the way of curriculum choice, you will probably, like me, remember several years of sewing classes. During this period of time you were expected to show proficiency in a number of areas. Garment construction, phasing from the simple apron through to more complex complete garments including skirts, pants, yoked shirts; basic embroidery and smocking; and either knitting or crochet.
On the subject of knitting, now there was a farce! I recall being required to knit a pair of bed socks. Well, a pair is not quite correct. Sock singular, is a more accurate descriptor, as I never did finish the project. Once I had cast off the first one, having stretched it as much as I could to ensure that it made the required length, there was no way that I was going to cast on for the next. Oh yes, this was an exhilarating assignment. I could not imagine why anyone would want to ponce around the house, or one's bed for that matter, in a rib knitted pair of booties tied on with ribbons. Mmm - Mmm. This was beyond my understanding, even in a Tassie winter.
During this knitting fiasco my Grandmother tried to teach me to knit without letting go of the needles. The fact that grandma was left-handed did not help matters any. So I stuck to the amateur method. Let go of needles, grab wool, pass wool around needle, pick up needle, complete stitch, and repeat. Not the most efficient method, perhaps, but quicker than attempting to change completely over to left-handed knitting. Mind you she was quite useful in picking up dropped stitches. I availed myself of these services on a number of occasions.
Not one to learn quickly by one's mistakes, I concluded that my lack of application to the task of knitting, was due to the extremely boring nature of the garment that I had been forced to make. So mum took me out and we bought a pattern, needles and wool for a jumper and thus began my second foray into the 'joy' of knitting. This project was designed to keep me out of mischief during the school holidays. Well, I did quite well and got as far as the neck without too much drama. One row plain followed by one row purl is not too difficult for anyone to master, but a V-neck, now that was an entirely different challenge. Mum had to come to the rescue on that one.
Then came the advent of jumbo needles and easy knit quick patterns, which was the catalyst for my third encounter with needles and wool. I have already explained that I was not one to learn from past mistakes. Nevertheless, I actually got through to the end of this one. There was, however, one small hitch in the proceedings. Well, quite a significant hitch really. Apparently I am what is known as a 'loose knitter'. This trait being accentuated by the larger jumbo needles resulted in the jumper being twice the size that it should have been.
That was it. Three failed attempts were enough for me and I finally concluded that knitting was not my forte and relegated the jumper to the "old clothes for donation" bag and needles and patterns to the back of the cupboard never to see the light of day again.
These consistently unsuccessful forays into the world of knitting remind me of a character in the Bible. He only has three speaking parts, and with every single one he stuffs it up. Can you think of whom I have in mind? Let me narrow it down for you. It was in the New Testament … He was a disciple … Thomas.
The first of his "faux pas" was in relation to the Lazarus story in John 11. Mary and Martha send a message for Jesus to come as Lazarus was very sick and then followed it up with a message to say that he had died. Jesus had just finished telling the disciples that Lazarus' sickness would not end in death, that he was only asleep and that Jesus would go and wake him up. Then comes the first of Thomas' 'foot in mouth' lines in verse 16 "Well then we all may as well go and die too." (Paraphrased by author) What a statement of non-faith. No rejoicing here. No, "go Jesus go". But rather gloom and doom, and doubt that Jesus could deal with the issue. "We're all going to die."
To add insult to injury, Thomas' second speaking part is in John 14. Jesus in this scene is telling the disciples that he is going to heaven and will prepare a place for them and will come back and take them to be with Him. Out of Thomas' mouth comes this classic statement from verse 5. "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (NIV) For goodness sake, Jesus had not just told the disciples to meet him at the café on the corner of main and fifth for morning tea. He was talking about their future and his purpose in this world. You really would think that after three years of working with Jesus that Thomas would have had some grasp of Jesus' mission. But no, not Thomas. Three years of wasted training.
The third and last event in the Bible where we hear of Thomas is tied up with the Easter encounter and Jesus' resurrection in John 20 and is probably his most famous. How could Thomas doubt ten of his closest friends, all saying the same thing, that Jesus had risen from the grave? Even when Jesus himself appears Thomas didn't believe. In verse 24 he makes this statement. "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." (NIV) And even when he finally gets it right in verse 29 Jesus tells him that he should have got there a lot sooner. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Three strikes and you're out Thomas, give up. Are you really sure that you are suited to this disciple profession? As we don't hear anymore of Thomas in the Bible, we could very well conclude that Thomas hung up his sandals and looked out for something to which he was better suited.
But that is not the end of the story. In India today there is a church that carries the name of its founder. Thomas went on to travel the furthest of any of the disciples in spreading the gospel. Despite Thomas' failings, he learned to place his trust in God and achieved great things in His name.
So I would like to leave you with a challenge today. No, not to get your knitting needles out!
In our Christian life we all get things wrong. Jesus does not operate on the standard 3 warning system. Verbal, written warning, and third strike you are out. We should take courage from Thomas and know that even in our imperfections and amongst our doubts and our mistakes, God will use us in furthering his kingdom.
Don't let your concerns about the odd dropped stitch or for the occasional foot in mouth moment stop you from allowing God to work through you as His disciple. These are the types of people he partners with every day.
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