Knotted Shoelaces


My oldest was probably only four years old when he showed me proudly that he could tie his shoes.

There they were, with the laces knotted together over and over until there was no more string left with which to work. How proud he was, and how I smiled. He had not tied them properly, but he had done his best and I was proud of him anyway.

With the laces tied together – tightly – in nearly twenty good knots on each shoe, I naturally had a bit of an unplanned project ahead of me. Undoing what he had done would take some time.

Even though it wasn’t on my agenda to untie all those knots, I remember being sweetly amused by his valiant effort to do something he had never done before. Tying shoes was important, something he knew I’d have to do if he didn’t. He was only trying to help, and I knew it. Of course there was no punishment for doing it “wrong;” only praise, and a little bit of guidance to help him do it a little better next time.

I’ve often reflected on that ‘motherhood moment.’ At times I’ve found myself in a pickle after trying to do something good (but in all the wrong ways). In those times, I think about my boy.

When my misjudgment creates a tangle, I’ve learned that there is always some Fatherly intervention available to help straighten everything out.

It’s not hard to imagine a loving Heavenly Father being sweetly amused by my valiant effort to try something new, something important, especially when I am only trying to help. Instead of being angry that I would meddle in His work and mess things all up, I believe He simply smiles, squats down and helps me unravel a few unnecessary knots. Gratefully, I’ve learned that I can’t ruin anything so badly that He can’t fix it. I’m just not that powerful.

When I seek His help, He is perfectly able to reverse the problems I cause, or at least make something wonderful out of bad situations in His own miraculous way, and in His own time.

He is able to do His work. But it brings me joy to try to help. And when things go wrong, I think He’s proud of me for trying. And when things go well, I know it’s not me. It never was me. I only made messes of knots when I thought it was.

I’m grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who does not condemn me when I do something wrong, if my intentions are right. And whenever I get down on myself for my mistakes, I think of a perfect Father in Heaven who loves me in spite of me, and helps me as I resolve to do better. I think of knotted shoelaces.

Remembering this gives me the courage to keep trying, until the day He finally says of His work, “It is finished.”

Related: When perfection is impossible (and it always is)

Originally published February 23, 2007