My grandma taught me to knit when I was eight years old at our annual family Christmas. Somewhere between dinner and dessert, my cousins and I crowded around her with shiny knitting needles too big for our hands and trained our eyes on her fingers. I clumsily made my way through one, two, three rows, but it wasn’t long before my finger snagged on a hole, right smack in the middle of my scarf-to-be. Despairing at the thought of starting again, I presented the problem to my grandma. With just a quiet “must’ve lost a stitch,” she unraveled my work up to the problem and restored the scarf to its former potential. Her movements were incongruously quick compared to my own and it looked like magic, this unraveling and restoring. To this day, the feeling of grace is accompanied by the sound of clacking knitting needles nestled in my grandma’s hands.
But sin? Sin feels like that stitch dropped unbeknownst to me, the kind that you don’t see until five rows later. Or perhaps, it is like a hole burned straight through the knitted meshwork that makes up you and me and us. All around the edges of that hole, where there used to be woven yarn are fraying loose ends. With every pull, every snag, the unraveling continues, and the hole grows bigger.
The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other Black lives lost are some of the loose threads surrounding the smoky hole of systemic racism. Floyd’s words “I can’t breathe” overflowed into streets and toppled statues. The shouts of protests snaking through city streets have defiantly pulled on these threads and exposed the sin of racism more profoundly than ever.
This racism that has existed much too long — in me, maybe in you, in the church, in the very fabric of our society. The unraveling threads reveal how deeply woven racism is from one generation to the next.
I was raised in Richmond, Virginia, a city that has gained quite a standing in national news recently for the protests surrounding the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue. Every year for as long as I could remember, Richmond hosted the Monument Avenue 10k and when I was thirteen, I ran the race with my mom. There were bands lined up around the medians and thousands of people running alongside me. It was exhilarating and fun, and I did not think twice about the Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson statues that stood as idols to white supremacy.
Just recently, I went back to Monument Ave and saw the very same statues I ran past at thirteen. They were covered in profanity, awaiting their removal. I saw them, and something began to unravel. The profanity that covered the statues became the outward manifestation of the desecration that existed all along. The innocence of my childhood experiences unraveled; a trust in my own righteousness unraveled.
The work of unraveling is similar to the work of confessing. It deals a striking blow to one’s own achievements. Just like the five, lumpy rows of knitting my grandma undid to fix my mistake, the economic, academic, and professional successes I’ve claimed come undone in this unraveling work that has begun in me. As a white woman, my environment, my family of origin, and my privilege have brought me far, lifting me up while also pushing others down, and now I cannot unsee the inequity and injustice.
If I am honest, though, I am scared that as I begin the journey to root out the sin of racism in me, to confess it and to act differently, I will discover that it runs deeper than I knew. (It probably does run deeper than I know.) I am scared my inexperienced fingers won’t know what to do with the pile of loose yarn on the ground, that I won’t know how to make anything better or that I’ll make the same mistakes again.
And then, I remember my grandma. I remember her deft knitting hands and I hear the sound of clicking and clacking grace. I remember that yarn is pulled through fingers for creation, not just desecration.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13 (NRSV)
God is a knitter, too, just like my grandma. God knit us together when we were just beginning in our mothers’ womb, when all we felt was belonging. Better yet, God didn’t stop knitting — not when hurt came, not when sin tore through us. God did not make us stagnant, winding us up like a cheap toy to set us in motion. No, God is still knitting us into being, unraveling and knitting back, creating, reforming, healing, fixing holes, and weaving the frayed ends together again. As we root through privilege and systems of oppression in which we are complicit, God is still knitting. As we confess what we have done and what we have left undone, God is still knitting, row after row of becoming.
My friends, as we confess, as we act, listen, and change, may we cling desperately and courageously to our knitting God, who requires our unraveled lives for the work of justice and mercy.
As we root through privilege and systems of oppression in which we are complicit, God is undoing the threads of racism and recreating us. -@karisophia1: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Knitting I tried so many times throughout my life to learn. We in our Church the Salvation Army have women group call TLC. Which stands for Tender Loving Care. On Wednesday night when it was on before Covid 19. There at it they even tried to teach me how to knit. I couldn’t. They even tried to me how crochet I couldn’t get the hang of it either. I even went on to YouTube to try and learn. It drove me bats. My Husband laughed at me. He said Dawn put it away knitting and crochet not for you. You tried. Sometimes we find things easier than others. Other times we find things more difficult than other. But boy oh boy did the knitting and the crochet drive me bats. But as the saying that come to mind God loves a trier. I am not one of those people. My two Grandmother who are both not alive today in their time were the best knitters you seen they used to knit us our school jumpers and scarfs for school when small. But it taught me a big lesson to in life of God. At least I tried and I even went on to YouTube to try and learn. But God said to me my Child I still love you and I commend you that you tried you didn’t give up. Until you knew it had you beat. You found it was not for yourself. But in life God said to me l like people my followers who try things and don’t give up until they know they are not just meant to be for them. Sometimes God showed me this. We think a job we take is for us and we find can do I mange it. We like the knitting get into a fluster. It too hard for us. We stick at stay with because we think it money towards the bills. It a job. But in the end the stress of it getting to us. God could be saying like a tingle ball of wool or string. That you can’t on ravel it meaning you can’t do the job it to hard for you. You get into more stress. Then your health suffers. So God could be saying now stay in the job but look out for another job if can. Pray and ask God to help you. One more suitable for you. That you can do. Yes we were knit in our Mother’s wombs and God choose what color skin we have. Like we can if good knitters choose what color of wool we choose to knit with. Like the color of wool to knit with let stop and not be like choosing the color of wool when it comes to color or skin of people when we choose or friends or see people. Let not think about color. Let look beyond that. Look at the person from the heart with Love. Like the Jesus would. Not look at their skin color. Another thing people are worried about sking color it says in Job naked we came from our mothers womb and naked we will be when we die. So why are we worried about skin color as the Person in the Hospital who helps give birth to us from our mothers womb see us with nothing on and our skin color doesn’t matter to them. So why should it matter to us. These are the words in Job 2 verse 21″ I came naked from my mother’s womb and I will be striped of everything when I die”. How true that is even today.
Beth Williams says
Truth be told we are all guilty of racism of a nature. I’m guilty of judging people. Sunday morning at church I see people in shorts, & flip flops or some looking at their phones the entire service. Right away I’m quick to judge them for not dressing a little nicer or paying attention to the sermon. Being cognizant of that I confess my sins to God & ask forgiveness. I should be focused on myself & my worship of God. Never before would I consider myself a racist. But judging others based on looks, skin color, etc. is just that. Our God is so wonderful. He knit us in our mothers’ wombs. All of us black, white, red, yellow, etc. He takes great care in unraveling, reforming us & fixing our frayed ends. He wants us to have a heart like His. One that loves everyone no matter what. May we take the time to listen, learn & love like Jesus.
Sophia Marti says
Thank you, Kari for this interesting text about knitting being like what Jesus does for us. Unraveling our mistakes, misconceptions, etc. and making something beautiful out of the messed up yarn in our lives. Beautiful analogy!