A thing of beauty is a joy for ever . . .
–John Keats, 19th century
The smallest things can make an impression on a child. I remember the first time I experienced the beauty of patchwork quilts. I was spending the night at Grandma’s house, and she covered me with one of her own quilt creations. As she explained the pieces, my eyes lit on fabric squares of the same cloth she had used to make my doll’s clothes. It seemed a kind of magic: the same fabric in both places? How did she do that?
Quilts remind us that nature is not the only place that beauty can be found. People can use their God-given talents to co-create with God. One way this is expressed is in the way women arrange “little scraps” together to form something artistic, giving us a glimpse of spiritual beauty. When our eyes behold a striking pattern, we pause in delight, even if only for a second. This pause grants us a little rest from the busyness of life, an opportunity to whisper a prayer of thanks.
Juggling the many pieces of my life often feels helter-skelter and confused, but a quilt reminds me that God is sewing these elements together into a pattern. I just don’t see the bigger picture in the moment—a picture that is bigger and better than just I, me, mine.
Our communal life of families, neighborhoods, and nations would be of better quality if we saw ourselves as pieces of one quilt–each piece treasured and beautiful, but also part of the greater whole. Jesus longed for all people to be one (John 17:20-23)—and his Spirit is the thread that interlocks us together into a unified whole.
This oneness, however, is not identicalness. Creator God did not crank us out of a factory, uniform in every way. The women and men who followed Jesus in those early years had different personalities, insights, gifts, and weaknesses. Following Jesus does not mean giving up your uniqueness, but rather allowing Christ to transform that unique personhood into something utterly filled with God’s presence.
Quilts serve as a pattern for our minds to comprehend what it is that the thread of the Spirit can do, building a world in which both personal dignity and shared community exist in harmony. We are but scraps of fabric, simple yet lovely in the Lord’s eyes, being sewn together for God’s own purpose and delight.
Note: The quilt in the picture was purchased at The Village Depot in Harmony, Minnesota, a lovely gift from my husband on our 25th anniversary. I am grateful to the Amish women in southeastern Minnesota who made it. Although we have never met, I believe God is with you, and I offer you heartfelt thanks.