Walking Our Faith: The Ugly Pink Scarf
March 2, 2018
As the lights dimmed so our Wednesday evening Lenten group could watch a video, I glanced down at the scarf I was holding in my hands. How had I created something so ugly?
Which might be a harsh criticism for something I would anonymously give away this weekend. But though it contained my favorite color, pink, and I'd tried to make the most of the cast-off bits of yarn I had in my basket, it was still dreadful.
Despite my reticence, I continued to knit as the video began, because I'd made a commitment to myself. I would knit and give away one warm and woolly scarf each week during Lent.
Instead of giving something up for Lent, I wanted to give something of myself. Because I love knitting and because it has been quite cold in recent weeks, hand-knit scarves seemed perfect.
My first scarf was hung on a railing outside the South Branch library. The second was placed on a bench at the Silverthorne bus stop in Frisco. The third and fourth scarves were given away at the community dinner I served at last Tuesday. The third went to a lovely young woman who picked the green one. I'm not sure who took the solid pink one home, it was gone after I told the diners it needed a home, placed it on a shelf and returned to serving soup.
They were all beautiful scarves. But this one I held as I knit in the dark, well, it reminded me of myself — a hot mess of ill-conceived decisions.
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The yarn had quite a journey to reach me. First it was donated to Maggie Ducayet, the founder of St. John's prayer shawl ministry. Next Maggie brought the beautiful skeins of orphaned yarn to our Wednesday knitting group at the Next Page bookstore in Frisco. There, one of the skilled prayer shawl knitters transformed it into an intricate design to warm the shoulders of someone in need.
What I had in my basket were leftovers. Bits of decorative yarn too short to make an entire garment, or not to the standards of the beautiful shawls. I had white eyelash yarn that looked like fur, wavy hot pink wool so saturated in color it made my teeth ache. A gray that was almost green, and a green that was almost gray. I knit them together, holding two or three strands at a time, hoping to create some beauty from the motley mess.
The video we watched was about the challenge of forgiveness. For example, we find it difficult to forgive ourselves because when we look at our lives, we see something similar to my hodgepodge scarf, cast off and not pretty enough to claimed.
I converted to Catholicism 30 years ago and even after all these years, the sacrament of Confession is the one I find most difficult. It has always felt like creating a laundry list. I go through the commandments and tick off the ones I've managed to keep and those I have not.
To love my neighbor as myself, is the one that trips me up. When I begin to think about who is included in the circle of "my neighbor," I realize that God's definition is more expansive than my own. And it's all downhill from there. I forget the message of the Lord's prayer where I ask God to forgive my sins, as I forgive my neighbor.
But what we see in the mirror is not what God sees in us. We see the mistakes we've made, God sees our beauty. When we go to him to ask forgiveness of our sins, it's more than making an ugly thing beautiful, because in God's sight we are already beautiful.
You know, knitting is essentially the creation of knots and knots and knots. And depending on our ability to create knots according to a pattern, we eventually end up with a scarf or a sweater.
When we look at our lives, as I did on Wednesday, what we have created can look like a mess of random (and often poor) decisions. Yet, when we seek reconciliation with God, our return is more than forgiveness — it is the start of healing. God restores our ability to see ourselves as he sees us, loved. God will take our knots and turn them into something beautiful, because he sees the entire pattern and knows that it is never too late to create something new.
This morning, I discovered a beautiful rosary video by Bernard Weldon featuring movie clips from the life of Jesus to illustrate the meaning of each mystery. Instead of holding my beads as I recited the prayers, I held my ugly scarf. And with each Hail Mary and Our Father, I knitted another stitch. And I found myself praying love into the ugly scarf and blessing it with hope that it will keep its wearer warm. And with that new perspective, the scarf became precious, because when we forgive and are forgiven, by God, by our family, by our neighbor, by ourselves… we make room for love.
This weekend, I'll take the ugly pink scarf to town and leave it somewhere to be found with a little card that says, "If you're cold, take me, I'm yours." Then, I'll begin another scarf to be given away. It will be knit as I listen to the rosary, and each knot will be knit with love and that is what will make the ugly scarf, like our lives, beautiful.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson's newest book is "Knit Together."
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