For my ordination, I wanted to wear what Ghandi wore. Well, not a loincloth and shawl, but a robe that was made by my own hand. Ghandi spun the thread and wove the cloth himself. So I wanted to make my own clergy robe. This was a good idea since a search of clergy robes showed me that were all too big, too long and had only slits for pockets. What if you wear a dress with no pockets? Where to put a tissue? That means that you leave a trail of wadded up Kleenex like white rabbit droppings.
Of course there was nothing in the pattern books that vaguely resembled an alb. So I set about making the pattern myself. Harder than I thought. At one point I did wonder if the UCC would be okay with a loincloth and shawl. But finally I made a pattern that I was sure would work.
Since I had no delusions about spinning and weaving, I hit the fabric stores. After much searching I finally found a creamy white fabric that was not too heavy and not too light. I bought the entire bolt. There was just enough to cut out the robe with nothing to spare. I unpinned the pattern to begin sewing. That is when I had The Horrible Realization.
I neglected to cut the back of the robe on a fold so I could simply open it out into one piece. Now I was stuck with two pieces and no seam allowance. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. I tried joining them with iron-on tape which clearly was not going to hold together. So then I got the brilliant idea to zig-zag down the middle. It looked like the work of a drunken surgeon—ugly, puckered stitches.
I had no more fabric. My ordination was a week away. I couldn’t afford to buy new fabric. Worst of all? There was no one to blame but myself. I dropped the pieces on my sewing table. I came upstairs, made a cup of tea and sat in my living room watching the November drizzle. What to do?
I sipped my tea, I wiped my tears, I looked around the room. We hadn’t been married very long and I was still in my Doily Phase: my nana’s doilies were everywhere. I absent-mindedly fingered one on the arm of the couch. Cover the mistake with doilies! Well, that would be ridiculous. But what if I could find some kind of doily-like lace to hide the hideous seam?
Return to the fabric store! And there, on the shelf, right at my eye level, as if it had been waiting for me, was a spool of cream-colored crocheted lace. It was so perfect that for the second time that day I was in tears. If I was going to run it down the back, then I’d better run down the front too and on the sleeves for good measure. Make it look like I intended it.
Almost all of the compliments I get on my robe are about that crocheted lace. If I have time and the situation seems right, I explain how I used it to cover a horrible mistake, how I didn’t know what to do so I didn’t do anything at first.
I’ve found that often, when confronted with a problem, the best thing to do is nothing at first. Just wait. But this is so hard for us. We want to rush to action. Fix it! Make it okay. It can be agonizing to just sit with the pain and wait—not just for any answer—but the right answer. This is when we need to make a cup of tea, wipe our tears, look around and listen.
It is possible to turn our mistakes into something beautiful—but sometimes we have to wait.