This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications.
Hopefully you have noticed over the past few weeks that First Pres is taking part in the sewing of a quilt to celebrate the opening of a sewing school run by our partner Monique Misenga in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a powerful project meant to be a meaningful – and hopefully lasting – illustration of our support and prayerful hopes for the school’s future. I desperately want to participate. (Visit here to learn more: https://firstpresevanston.org/drc-quilt.)
Here’s the thing: If the safety of the free world depended upon my ability to draw, cut, or sew a straight line, we would all be doomed to be enslaved by alien invaders. I can’t explain it, but I have never been able to perform any of these basic skills at any time in my life. I am not being overly modest or humble.
In the spring of 1976, I and my fellow eighth graders were required to take a sewing class and make an article of clothing to be worn during the end-of-semester assembly. I chose a pattern pullover shirt that was considered “mod” by the standards of the times. I selected my fabric, a faux denim polyester (so cool), laid the pattern out over it, and… froze. Marking, pinning, cutting, and sewing in straight lines were all essential if I had any hope of earning a passing final grade.
The sewing teacher showed more pity on me than deserved and it was only because of her assistance that I managed to get out of there with a B. (This class was considered an “Easy A” by my peers.)
After graduating from junior high, I managed to avoid the need to sew (excluding the need to replace the odd button) for decades. Eventually, I became a parent and could no longer hide from the need to cut shapes and draw lines (or at least effectively model these behaviors to my sons). My wife, a far more capable sewer, got tired of me designing elaborate Halloween and school play costumes only to then ask her to construct them. “Your vision, your project,” became her battle cry.
It didn’t take long for me to change my designs from flashy and complex to plain and simple.
Fortunately (for them, not for me), both of my sons are far better at drawing and cutting in straight lines than I ever hope to be. Occasionally I have had to suffer generally kind-hearted ribbing from them as they watch me struggle to do something for the third time that only took them one try.
All of us have those areas in life where we are lacking in a natural skill that we aren’t ever likely to really make a strength, or even an area of what we might consider adequate performance.
The same is true spiritually.
I suspect most of you have heard the phrase “keep on the straight and narrow.” According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “the straight and narrow” is an informal phrase meaning “the way of living that is honest and morally proper.”
It’s kind of the behavioral equivalent of only drawing and cutting where you are supposed to. I’d like to say I’m a whole lot better at living a moral and upright life than I am at “arts and crafts”, but I’ve been walking with Jesus since 1981 and I still find myself off the path on a regular basis.
In Romans 7:19-21, the Apostle Paul writes the following:
“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that, when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. ” 1
I am not able to adhere to the law anymore than I can cut out perfect squares, hearts, or triangles for a quilt square. Praise God that it is NOT perfection which is asked of me! It is trust in the one who made me (with all my faults) and called me.
This Sunday, we have a guest preacher, Rev. Susan Peterson, bringing the message from Genesis 12:1-9. This passage tells the story of Abram’s call by God to leave his home in Ur and go to an undisclosed land. If he is obedient, Abram is told he will become the forefather of many even though he is already 75 years old and has had no children to this point. God’s journey for Abram and Sarai is very much NOT a straight line. Please join us in person for the service and Lemonade on the Lawn, or online.
May God’s grace make the crooked straight and the rough plain in all our lives,
Director of Communications
1 For more context, read Romans 7:14-25.