Spare me perfection. Give me instead the wholeness that comes from embracing the full reality of who I am, just as I am. —David Benner
As a child, my mother sewed a large portion of my clothes, especially my dresses. Of course, I took this talent for granted as a child. In fact, it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties, and shopping for so-called “professional” clothes to wear while student-teaching that I began to truly realize what a gift mom’s sewing had been for me.
It was my senior year at Ohio University, Athens campus. It was still the era of the quarter system across most Ohio universities throughout the state. This meant that I had a break from Thanksgiving through the beginning of January. Therefore, I used this time to work, and this year was no exception. However, since I knew I needed appropriate clothes for student-teaching, I landed a job at Lazarus (now Macy’s) at our local mall. My goal was to not only work, but also to take advantage of the employee discount and after-Christmas sales.
I already knew that I needed to shop in the petite section of the women’s department as I was (and am) less than five feet in height, but what came as a shock to me is how long so-called “petite” sleeves and lengths of skirts, dresses, and pants were! Plus, according to manufacturer measurements, my body shape did not fit into a precise size category. Without belaboring the point too much, it was during these tear-filled hours spent in the Lazarus dressing room desperately trying to find a few items to fit my proportions that my appreciation for my mother’s tailoring grew.
Thinking back to Mom’s sewing, I can recall the efforts she would take to thread the needle–literally and figuratively–while sewing clothes for me. While she would begin each dress, skirt, or blouse made for me with a purchased pre-made pattern, she would also painstakingly take my measurements and alter the size of the pattern accordingly before cutting the cloth. Throughout the sewing process, she would pin the cloth first, ask me to put it on, adjust the proportions as needed, and then thread either the sewing machine needle or her own personal needle to stitch each piece together.
In order to sew one complete dress for me, Mom was required to thread one of those needles repeatedly, perhaps even thousands of times. I can recall countless moments of watching Mom attempting to insert the thread through the eye of the needle. Thinking back on it, she had to ensure all of the fibers/strands of thread fit through the tiny eye together. If one strand did not go through, the needle was not properly threaded, and she had to try again. The thread had to go through the eye wholly to live up to the task required by Mom. In fact, in order to prevent a strand from sticking out, Mom would often wet the thread’s end and twist it tightly together. Both creator and creation had to be fully concentrated in order for all fibers to fit through the eye.
Reflecting upon this, I realized what powerful lessons were there in Mom’s sewing. On one hand, there is the lesson of flaws. Mom, the creator of my dresses, did not see me as flawed–not fitting some arbitrary manufacturer standards. Rather, she saw me as a whole–as the Creator sees each of us. Mom was able to take my unique dimensions and measurements in order to create a whole piece that fit one-of-a-kind me. Her fully, concentrated threads and efforts afforded me the opportunity to be adorned in perfectly fitting clothes, so that as a child, I could fully and wholly concentrate on my own efforts and energies into typical childhood endeavors.
On the other hand, Mom’s repeated endeavors to thread the needle also provides another lesson–one of our Creator, and the way in which we were designed to live. When Mom fashioned clothes for me, she had to take my so-called flawed measurements–measurements not taken into account by the pattern manufacturer. Additionally, she sometimes had to use fabric remnants, old thread, or even mismatched thread to sew various items of clothing for me. There were times her needle broke, her stitches were off, or a measurement was off. There were times I even watched Mom painstakingly pick out all of the stitches along one piece, and start all over. No matter the mistakes, accidents, mismatched thread, or sale-fabric, in the end, it wasn’t the flaws that I saw and wore, it was the whole–the entirety of the piece.
That is how the Creator designed us to live–wholly. Humans are not perfect, nor were we meant to be perfect. Just as I am not “standard-sized,” our lives are not either. It is our imperfections, blemishes, and fallibility that make us perfectly human. By embracing ourselves as we are–flaws and limitations–we are able to find our strengths and uniquenesses. Furthermore, our mistakes, our errors, and our unfortunate times of sorrow all work together to create a richer and more wholehearted approach to life and to others–after all, how can we possess empathy for other humans if we live a “perfect” life.
It is only when we take time to bind our individual talents and gifts, along with our imperfections, that we are able to thread the eye of our lives. We were designed to be “non-standard.” How would any work site come together if we all had the same skill-set? In fact, how would any couple, family, team, town, and so forth, grow, develop, and thrive together if everyone were the same.
Life is not standard. No one person is standard. Each of us, however, is whole–wholly imperfect and Divinely designed to offer this world what no one else can offer. Let each of us embrace our differences, and embrace the differences of others too. As brown sugar, butter, flour, and chocolate chips individually come together in a hot oven to create delicious cookies, so too do the trials and fires of life bind us together. It is my lesson to learn and share that life is more beautifully adorned when we openly and humbly accept our imperfections and allow the Creator’s thread to bind us together in order to live our perfectly, imperfect designed lives.