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What I learned while knitting socks

Socks and Sermon

I love knitting socks.  Most all of the socks I wear now have come from a yarn store, not a clothing store. Small, relatively fast, and very satisfying to knit this tube that turns 90 degrees at the heel. That step is always magic to me – I do it over and over on every sock but I still don’t fully understand why it works. And don’t get me started on the joy of shaping the toe......

Recently I began knitting a pair of socks from a skein of yarn I bought several years ago and have been itching to knit with. I was so excited to be starting these socks. The colors, the squishiness of it, a lovely new pattern -  I just knew the socks would be dreamy to wear. (Bear with me – I do love my socks.)

After working on the first pattern I chose for these special socks for a day or so, I was so frustrated. They were not turning out well at all.  The stitches were uneven, my hands were felt clumsy and the socks just looked chaotic.  Ok, time to frog. (That is what knitters call ripping out a project  – rip it, rip it – say it over a few times and you’ll get it!.) I looked for another pattern – YES, that one will work!

Well, no.  Another failed attempt. Try again with yet another pattern with a simpler design – maybe that will do the trick. (I have a lot of sock patterns….)

Nope. More frogging. Time to put this yarn aside? No, I really wanted to stick with it - or rather, I was not ready to admit defeat. (see that pun there*.....?)

I thought - maybe this yarn does not want to be socks. But I really did want to do something with it. I had a new pattern for fingerless mitts – sort of like socks for your hands.  Ever the optimist, I moved ahead and sure enough- success! The mitts flew off of my needles and after about a week, I had finished this unexpected project.

In this year in which everything has been upended, and we have had to face it in isolation, I feel like I need to move ahead as things re-open with a refreshed pattern for my life, not just adding things back to my schedule randomly as they come up. Fortunately, God anticipated this and prepared me by immersing me in the Sermon on the Mount this year in our women's Bible study.

What does this pattern look like? It begins with the radically countercultural Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful. This is not what the disciples expected Jesus to say. But it was Jesus's new pattern for His followers, an unexpected change that no doubt puzzled them as much as my reluctant sock puzzled me. Well, maybe more.....

Then comes the numerous "You have heard that it was said....." passages where Jesus created a new pattern for evaluating what is sinful and what is not. Jesus emphasized the state of their hearts, not simply their behavior and rule-following. He really upended the way they thought about obedience to God.

He gave us the pattern for our prayer, and revolutionized how we are to practice  spiritual disciplines like giving and fasting in order to glorify Him, not to bring attention to ourselves. He makes it easy for us to remember all of this with the Golden Rule - "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

Jesus's words astonished His listeners (Matthew 7:28-29). His words astonish me. This is the pattern I should follow? This does not feel natural - but then, it isn't. My human nature wants to be mitts, not socks. But Jesus wants me to be conformed to His image, not mine. 

I will keep knitting socks. And mitts. And other things. As I look ahead to life after a pandemic, I am praying my plans will be shaped by Matthew 5-7. And I will strive to enter the narrow gate and follow the narrow road. (Matthew 7:13-14)  This Holy Week is a good time to look ahead to a renewed commitment to the pattern that Jesus set before us in the Sermon on the Mount as we emerge from a really strange and difficult year.  It is a hard road, a counter-cultural road (thanks, John Stott **), but we travel it with the help of the Holy Spirit who is present with us always.



*in case you didin't get the pun...defeat - de-feet :)  Get it? Socks? Feet? 

 ** Christian Counter-Culture by John Stott is a wonderful and timeless commentary on the Sermon on the Mount that I have benefitted greatly from this year.