And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. [1 Peter 5:5-6 (NLT)]

salt marsh mallowBelieving that God’s spirit would not enter into something flawless, various Native American people intentionally strung a wrong-colored bead (the spirit bead) into an otherwise perfect pattern of beadwork so to create an opening through which God’s spirit could flow. In a similar way, believing that a perfectly woven rug or carpet would be an offense to Allah, followers of Islam would make an intentional small mistake in their weaving. Concerned that a perfect quilt would encourage pride, imperfect squares called humility squares or blocks, are said to have been deliberately placed in quilts by Puritan women as their acknowledgment that only God is perfect.

Whether these intentional errors were done for God as acts of humility, as a way to use miscellaneous beads or scrap fabric, or simply to explain away a mistake, I don’t know. Nevertheless, feeling the need to make a deliberate mistake to keep from perfection seems the height of pride to me. Having done needlepoint, quilting, and other handwork, I can guarantee that mistakes will always creep into anything we make (at least anything I make).

The Greek word most often used in the Bible for sin was harmartia. An archery term, it meant missing the mark—a failure to hit the bull’s eye. Having done a little archery as a girl, I didn’t need to deliberately miss the bull’s eye to remain humble since I frequently missed the target altogether! No matter how hard we try, when it comes to being sinless, we don’t have to concern ourselves with making deliberate errors to avoid pride. None of can be sinless; that was done only once—by Jesus—so there is no need for any of us to insert a “humility square” into our lives. We’ve made enough errors already and more are yet to come.

Humility, however, is a strange thing—the minute you think you have it, you’ve lost it! As C.S. Lewis aptly said in Mere Christianity, “If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.” True humility isn’t found in in bead work, weaving, or quilting mistakes; it is found in a deep sense of one’s own sinfulness, limitations, and unworthiness in the sight of God. It is found by looking up at Him—His righteousness and holiness—rather than down at our accomplishments or the errors made by others!

Being human, we won’t hit the mark every time. Nevertheless, even though we fail to live up to God’s perfect standard, like the Apostle Paul, we continue to aim for the bull’s eye. There’s no need to be discouraged; we are all works in progress and are forgiven for our errors. We just need to focus on Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our aim.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. [Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)]

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