I have a favorite shirt. It’s longsleeved flannel with a red- and-white plaid design. It’s been with me a long time. Thirty years, I think. Surprisingly, the white is still white. I wear at home, especially in the fall in the winter. It’s comfy like only something that’s well worn can be.
The store where I purchased it is no longer in business. I can’t guess how many times I’ve washed it in the washing machine. Too many to count, yet it’s held up well.
However, in the last four years it’s started showing its age. Aren’t we all? It’s looking a little tattered because, well, it is. I’ve embroidered around the cuffs. All that time spent embroidering tea towels as a young girl paid off. The running stitch, the straight stitch, and the satin stitch are particularly helpful. They seem more than utilitarian. They also add a little design element to the flannel.
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Some areas need more attention where the threads have pulled apart creating holes. It’s not possible to simply embroider them. They need more reinforcement. I’ve used flannel pieces from an even older shirt. One that’s more of a rag than a shirt. I’ve made them into nice square and rectangular patches. I’ve hemmed them and sewn them onto my shirt. Then I’ve embroidered around the patches to reinforce the stitches.
The patches are red and white flannel with a little green stripe thrown in. They look like they’re meant to be part of this shirt. Maybe they are. They certainly help to keep this tattered shirt wearable.
There’s something poignant about a well-worn object that you’ve had many years. In a world where we throw everything away, it’s nice to hold onto something that’s still useful, even if it doesn’t look like the original. It’s definitely not brand new, but it is unique. Just like you and me.
I look back on my life and remember times when I felt brand new, just like when I first bought my flannel shirt in the store. Life looked so fresh. So hopeful. There were so many possibilities. There were many years of joy ahead of me.
I’ve lived a joyful life and still do. But at times, that joy comes with a cost. When we love someone deeply we change as human beings. We begin to understand a little bit more the incredible love that God has for each of us.
When we marry and God is in the middle of our marriage, we truly are no longer two people, but one person as it says in the Bible in Genesis 2:24. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
When that person we’ve joined our life with dies, a part of us goes with them. That’s when we have a tear in the fabric of our lives. There’s a ripping apart. A letting go. A hole in what used to be complete.
Add other life experiences to the mix like disappointments, illness, the loss of a friendship, the loss of a job, and so on. And we can become tattered. Broken down. Filled with holes like an old shirt that’s been worn too much. The fabric of our lives can seem like it’s ripping apart at the seams.
Can a tattered life, like an old, tattered shirt, be patched up again? Can it be made whole again? Can it ever be the same?
It will never be the same as it was before. But it can be better, if Jesus is the one doing the patching. And there can be joy again because joy comes from the Lord and not from circumstances.
When we align ourselves with God’s will, the impossible becomes possible. Nehemiah and his followers rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.
After they read the law and came to understand the words, the people wept. “And Nehemiah, who was governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to the people, ‘This day is holy to the LORD your God, do not mourn nor weep.’ For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow. The joy of the LORD is your strength’” (Nehemiah 8:9-10).
The joy of the Lord is our strength.
As I write these words, I’m wearing my red-and-white flannel shirt with the many patches. I notice that I need to do some more patching. There are new tears a new holes.
I’m so thankful that God the Father, my Lord, sees the holes in my life and patches them over with His forgiveness, with His love, with His amazing kindness. Because of Him, I’m better than new. I may be tattered at times. I may have a lot of patches. But I’m thankful for my patches. Those are the times when the Lord has put me back together after I’ve torn apart. Those are times when I saw little hope, but He brought His Hope to me. Those are the times when I thought that all joy had left, and He personally brought His joy to me.
I am thankful for my patches. They are the areas in my life where the Lord shines through. May He shine through you.
Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at Kathyyoder4@gmail.com.