Several years ago, I taught myself how to knit. That seems like such a simple statement to encompass the full victory of this process. You see, many, many, many years before, some friends had tried to teach me to knit. They loved knitting and couldn’t imagine not knowing how to do it. I could crochet. Why not knit.
But I couldn’t. Two needles covered in loops that you maneuvered in a variety of ways just did not compute in my mind. So, I’d sit with my single little crochet hook and they would sit with their knitting needles, and we’d have a grand ole time.
It was a failure I never could shake, though, because so many beautiful patterns called for knitting. My favorite patterns, in fact. Oh, the crochet patterns were pretty. Don’t get me wrong. But there was something about the style of knit that I longed to be able to accomplish.
So, finally, as an adult, I decided to give it another try. And somehow, this time, I succeeded. Perhaps it was the teaching method. Perhaps it was that I saw the diagrams in a book instead of simply trying to mimic the style of someone else. Perhaps it was the patience that I’d learned in the two plus decades since my first attempt. Maybe it was simply a true desire. Back then, my friends wanted me to learn. This time, I wanted to learn. Makes a difference!
Whatever the case, I succeeded. I didn’t become phenomenal or grasp intricate patterns quickly. But, I did learn.
I don’t knit constantly, or even daily. It’s an occasional burst here and there, dropped for a time when a project demands more attention than I can give it. When a day comes along that allows me to give the project extra attention, I get it back to a point of being easy enough to pick up for ten minutes here or thirty minutes there. Then I can keep it going during a work meeting (when my involvement is more about listening than actively engaging) or school with the kids (when we are discussing a book together).
By necessity, most of my projects remain simple, although I do enjoy challenging myself with a new stitch here or a new design there. I like to create projects that allow me to merge the simple with the complex, though, so I’m frequently learning new techniques but also have something that’s easy to pick up and do without a whole lot of need to watch a pattern.
Because of this desire to challenge my skills, I have needed certain tools. Various sizes and styles of needles. Place markers and counters. Cable hooks. I keep it all on the inexpensive end because I’m not enough of an enthusiast to spend a lot of money on the hobby. But, even those inexpensive tools give me a chance to experiment and learn.
At one point, I picked up a little plastic case full of knitting tools. I’d chosen this kit because it had several marker options and a couple of counters. But when I opened it, I also saw a wide variety of other tools. Tools I had never seen before. I had no idea what they were called (again, inexpensive set…no labels) or how to find out. As time has passed, I’ve learned about a couple of them, but there are still several that leave me baffled.
But they also inspire me. They make me want to learn more about knitting. Figure out new skills. Try new challenges. Explore new options. Could this be the tool for that fancy stitch? Might that one help me feel a little more coordinated with cable knitting? Or enable a more elaborate cable? The tools motivate my curiosity and nudge my desire to learn. Well, most of the time, at least.
Here’s the deal: sometimes these unknown tools scare me a bit. They remind me of my limitations. They let me know how much I can’t do. And sometimes that is more overwhelming than inspiring.
Do you ever feel that way about your spiritual growth? Do you ever feel like you’re plugging along nicely, only to suddenly get a glimpse of tools, resources, and learning scales that you’ve never even thought of before? Do you ever feel that you will never be able to learn enough? Grow enough? Use resources well enough?
Or are you motivated and inspired to reach for a new goal? Learn a new skill? Climb a higher peak?
I know we will all hit walls that scare us just a bit. We will be overwhelmed by the discovery of just how much we don’t know. But, my prayer for both myself and for you, dear reader, is that those moments aren’t what define us. My prayer is that the more common response of our heart is to be inspired. To be motivated. To desire to learn how to tackle that new skill. To use that new resource. To climb to that next level.
To not be defined by fear, but to be motivated by inspiration.