The Quiltmaker’s Gift
Jeff Brumbeau & Gail de Marcken
Orchard Books, 2000
Matthew and Luke both recount Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler. You know the story: a man comes to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments; the man says he’s done that, thank you very much. Then Jesus tells him to go and sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor, and when he had done that, to come back and follow him. At that, the man became sorrowful – he knew he loved his stuff too much to be able to do as Jesus directed.
I’ve read The Quiltmaker’s Gift several times over the past few months and, technically, it’s probably not a distinctly Christian book. Even so, I’ve come to think of it as a perfect mixture of the story of the rich young ruler, the parable of the pearl of great price, and the saying from Acts 20:35 (“it is more blessed to give than to receive”). Like the rich young ruler, the protagonist of this book loves his stuff. A lot. He loves it so much that he demands that his subjects give him gifts nearly constantly, and he enjoys keeping a list of all of his treasures.
Unlike the rich young ruler (but rather like the man in the pearl parable), the king in this book finds something that he desires more than all of his stuff: a very special quilt. At first he just wants to add the quilt to his treasure piles, but the wise old quiltmaker insists that he has to first give away everything he owns before he can receive what he seeks. He resists at first, but then she calls his bluff:
I can’t [give away all that I own]!” cried the king. “I love all my wonderful, beautiful things.”
“But if they don’t make you happy,” the woman replied, “what good are they?”
Surely, you don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate the basic message of The Quiltmaker’s Gift. If you do read it as a follower of Jesus, though, you’ll immediately see that it beautifully illustrates the truth that Christ wanted to teach the rich young ruler: it is impossible for the love of things and the love of God to abide side-by-side in the human heart. If we are to inherit his kingdom, we must make room in our lives – sometimes in drastic ways. It’s an infinitely worthwhile task, though, because while stuff will never make us truly happy, Jesus can satisfy us forever.