A common joke among quilters is that we take perfectly good fabric, cut it up, and then sew it back together again. Yet, as much as quilters often cringe at the thought of ripping into beautiful fabric, we can take that bold step because we know that final project—a mosaic of many pieces of torn and cut material—is far more valuable than the original “whole.” And the wonderful thing about a quilt is that not only is the final product a treasure, but each patchwork piece is special and necessary.
Although “The Teacher” stated in Ecclesiastes 3:7 that there is “…a time to tear and a time to mend,” he probably wasn’t literally referring to quilting or sewing—there are other analogies we could use to describe separation and union—but he knew that everything on this finite planet has its time and place.
If we take the verse literally, we might think of times we acknowledged a worn-out bed sheet had served its purpose and then ripped it into squares to use as rags. Perhaps we’ve had to let out a skirt that mysteriously shrank while we weren’t paying attention. At other times we may have had to mend socks, repair a fallen hem or sewn an entire project. How many of us have ripped up old love letters or shredded confidential documents? Or rushed to the hospital for stitches after getting a bad cut? At one point or another, we’ve all decided to take something apart or to fix something (or have it fixed by someone else).
Similar to the vows marrying couples make to each other, the opposites listed in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 remind us that real life brings change and we must be ready for both good and bad. Who doesn’t dream of a life with no pain, no messiness, no fear? It would be much easier if the good things in our lives remained intact—our health, finances, relationships, favourite possessions. We can look forward to such blissful existence in heaven but, for now, we must accept the tearing and mending that happens on a regular basis.
When we find ourselves in circumstances where pain and blessings come at the same time, or when we must make a choice between two good opportunities or two people we love, it’s easy to feel torn. Unfortunately, we can’t avoid every situation that involves tearing. There are times we must let it happen, trusting God to give us the strength we need to endure the pain, believing that after the rending comes the mending. What is torn may not necessarily be put back together, but our hearts can be healed.