Don’t Wear the Gorilla Sweater

By Katie Helmreich

I just finished knitting a cardigan for a gorilla. It wasn’t exactly what I was going for. I thought I was following the pattern, but somehow things got wonky. I have no idea how the arms ended up ten inches longer than necessary. The color is gorgeous and it’s super soft! Unfortunately, I don’t know any gorillas.

Over the past several months I’ve grabbed my knitting for a few minutes each evening. The big kids each have around 20 minutes with me to connect, one on one, at the end of the day. We read together, play a game, share a favorite show, work on a puzzle together, or just chat. It’s not the activity; it’s the connection. 

I find it easier to listen more and talk less when I’m knitting. It’s perfect for the evenings when one of my kids has something tricky they want to talk through or a long story to share. My natural inclination is to offer insight and advice, but knitting helps me slow down and ask more questions as I nudge the kids to reach a stronger conclusion for themselves. 

As I unraveled the gorilla monstrosity and carefully rolled the yarn back into balls, it occurred to me: I thought I was making a sweater, but actually I was making time

Knit. Purl. Knit. Purl… Just abiding.

Have you failed any projects lately? Made a special meal no one liked, or one they’re allergic to? Shared a thoughtful gift without realizing it was in a color they absolutely hate? Planned an event, to have only one person attend? Created something beautiful only to find out you used the wrong Scripture reading? Pulled together a great Sunday School lesson for a day everyone was too antsy to listen? 

Me, too. 

What if, instead of beating yourself up about it, you looked back at what you learned along the way. What if, instead of wearing the gorilla cardigan, you unraveled it and thought back to the relationships built during the process? 

It’s easy to look at failures and see them as a huge waste of time! But take a moment and reflect. Can you see where God was at work? Perhaps it wasn’t about the activity. Maybe it was always about the connection. 

It’s tempting to think that, if something is in God’s plan for us, it will work. Sometimes though, it’s simply about abiding. Time spent with Jesus. 

Maybe you’ll see results from those projects down the road; maybe you won’t. But you don’t have to wear the gorilla sweater. Unravel it.

Then pick up your needles, and begin again. Maybe it will work this time; maybe it won’t.

But just think of all the precious time with Jesus you have to look forward to! 


  1. The fourth paragraph from the end was soul-revealing for me. Thank you for taking the time to think this through, write it, and share it with us.

    1. I so agree, Eden! “It’s tempting to think that, if something is in God’s plan for us, it will work. Sometimes though, it’s simply about abiding. Time spent with Jesus.” That’s helped me rethink some of my own personal evaluation of thing that “didn’t work” in the past. I think Jesus was present and active, so maybe they turned out just fine. After all, you don’t have to actually wear the gorilla sweater …

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