Posted by: Kara Luker | April 22, 2021

Sweatshirts & grace

I don’t have many reasons to dress up these days, plus I love to be comfy and am frequently cold, so I love sweatshirts and wear them pretty much every day. Since my old ones had been heavily rotated, I felt the need to add a few new ones to my wardrobe but wasn’t having much luck finding any. Then, to my great delight, I found exactly what I was looking for at a warehouse sale: Three soft, cute, perfectly-sized sweatshirts. At a great price, no less.

I’d been happily, gratefully wearing them for a few weeks when I pulled a load of laundry out of the dryer. My eye immediately fell on the giant splat of blue ink on my new pink sweatshirt. My stomach dropped as I pulled out a second sweatshirt with multiple blue marks. And there were yet more on the third. Remarkably (and very thankfully), the ink – which was from a pen I’d foolishly left in my pocket – avoided every single piece of John’s clothing and the rest of mine.

I would have left the laundry in the basket and run back to buy more sweatshirts that very moment, but the warehouse sale had already ended and that wasn’t an option. So I scoured google to find possible fixes for clothes that had been washed – and dried – with ink. Some people said there was nothing to be done. So sad, too bad. Some had good suggestions, but the few fixes I tried did nothing to lift the vibrant stains.

My mind suddenly flashed to a conversation I’d had with my brother about Tide To Go sticks, when I’d enthusiastically declared, “They really work!!” So I grabbed some from my laundry room, went to my workspace where my sad, stained sweatshirts were waiting, and began to scrub. Was it my imagination or was there some movement in the ink? Yes indeed! It was smudging and smearing, making a bigger mess… but that had to mean it wasn’t totally set, right? With carefully placed paper towels between layers to keep the ink from spreading further, I set out to see what might come of further attempts. 

What began as a bright blue became slightly less vivid and then a lighter blue… and then lighter yet. By the time I ran out of Tide sticks, it had morphed into a color so faint, it could be mistaken for a shadow. I sprayed a layer of Shout for good measure and threw the sweatshirts back in the wash. When I pulled them out, they looked beautiful – nearly perfect – with nothing in view but the original color of the fabric and a whole new level of joyful gratitude each time I wear them.

This whole thing reminded me a lot of the mistakes we make in this life that have far more at stake than a few comfy sweatshirts. Some cause us embarrassment or ding our reputation, while others cause physical or emotional damage to ourselves or the people around us. The world will often tell us the damage is permanent; that there is no way to reverse the shame that stains our lives through foolish errors. We will just need to learn to live with it, as well as with the regret that accompanies it. Or the world will dole out advice on how to erase the negative feelings attached to our poor choices by justifying – or even celebrating – the wrong we’ve done, or by covering it up to save face. But none of these “fixes” does anything to lift the vibrant stains we know, in our heart of hearts, remain.

What if, instead, we allow God to lay us out on His workspace where all of our mistakes (and those of others that have affected us) can be honestly acknowledged without justification, minimizing, hiding or hopelessness? It is in this sacred vulnerability that grace, like an endless supply of Tide sticks, is applied; where the stains that seem deeply set and immoveable start smudging and smearing, bringing hope that maybe they aren’t so permanent after all. Because they aren’t. They never will be. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross made sure of that. No mistake or wrongdoing ever resides outside the powerful cleansing of grace that removes all judgment and condemnation; all shame and regret. They are blotted out for now and always, allowing the pure color of our lives to shine through once again. It is because of this impossibly good and beautiful love, we are freed not only from past mistakes but the fear of future failure, as we come to see that grace is enough to drain the oldest, deepest stains and the newest, rawest ones until they are nothing but a testimony of God’s faithfulness in a life we can inhabit with a greater sense of joyful gratitude than we ever had before grace was needed.


  1. Lovely Kara…..❤️

    • Thank you Pam!

  2. Was this a Christian Tide commercial? I feel everyone is going to go out and invest in at least 20 Tide pens to have on hand in case of ink pens. 🤣 Always love your attitude and all your analogies. We really are a mess until we are cleansed by Him. In my “Year with Bonhoeffer” he has been talking a lot about confession of sins. Sometimes, to me, that confession/washing really does look a lot like the two pens each trying to do it’s own thing and looking a little blurred and smeared, maybe even a little bit messier in the process until the good pen soaks in enough to cover the bad one. 😊

    • You are so funny! Gotta give credit where credit is due… Jesus and Tide! 😄 I totally agree with things looking messier as we allow God to expose our sins and apply His grace. Which is why I think we avoid the whole process sometimes. The book sounds interesting. Let me know what you think of it.

  3. ❤️❤️❤️

    • 💗💗💗

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