When the Soul Follows Fashion
by Cynthia Ruchti
Ragged edges, rips, tears, stains and holes have—for millennia—been connected to poverty, deprivation and the uncultured. For years we hid our scars and ripped seams, the unsightly hole in the toe of a sock. Except around the house, where it seemed oddly acceptable to be ragged. We refused to wear slacks with worn knees or a blouse with a frayed cuff in public, for fear of giving the illusion of poverty. Only the destitute wear rags, right?
Now we pay a high price for jeans pre-mangled for us, for designer shirts with the raw edges showing, for bedazzled jackets with the pockets torn off. What once might have been considered tacky or inappropriate is now coveted and slapped with a designer label and inflated price tag. Fashionable.
As a teen learning to sew, I practiced until I mastered the art of the French seam, especially important for easily fray-able fabrics. With careful pinning and meticulous attention to detail, I could finish a seam with not a single thread showing.
That was then.
I thought the shredded jeans fad would have passed by now. Did you?
In our faith communities, have we done the same? Where once we hid our failures and weaknesses as carefully guarded secrets, we now parade them, one-up each other on tales of misspent youths, and boast about the number of varied recovery programs or support groups we attend each week. Important as they are, do we sometimes lean more heavily on the list of groups rather than on the One who heals?
Who wouldn’t applaud greater transparency and honesty? More authentic—a worthy goal. A confession that we’re grappling for help is much preferred to masking or hiding our struggles within an artificial French seam of dishonesty. Or is it a sign we’re resigned to our brokenness? We can cope better as long as we know we’re all broken, as long as we decide broken is in vogue.
God calls us to something other than the wild pendulum swing from hiding our scars to flaunting them. He doesn’t hope we’ll recast our tatters as a spiritual fashion statement, excuse or accommodate our sins, content ourselves with mere maintenance, or become satisfied with hovering on a recovery plateau.
But He’s also not insensitive to the weariness of a soul long tattered. He’s more keenly aware than we are of the length and severity of each rip, the fragility of the thin spots, the acutely tender soul-bruises. We feel them. He sees and feels them. He knows where they came from. He flinches with each new injury.
This is the God who proposes His name is Healer and urges us not to forget how to mend. “I am the Lord who heals you,” Exodus 15:26, CEB. The Hebrew word for Lord in that verse is Jehovah-Rophe, or Jehovah-Raphe/Rapha, which doesn’t merely name Him “The God Who Can Heal” or “The God Who Heals” but “God Your Healer.” A personal connection between us and The Mender.
Too often, we throw away relationships rather than invest in mending. We resign ourselves to brokenness rather than submit ourselves to the divine needle and thread that draws the raw edges back together. We discard a book with a bent cover and miss what’s inside. We—all of us—make jokes about our weak spots.
Are we more tattered than ever? Maybe we’re talking about it more. Maybe we subconsciously celebrate shattered histories that give us something to discuss and mark us right in line with current trends. Because people are tattered. The world says, “Then let’s make tattered fashionable.”
But God invites us to mend.
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