To Tear the Seam

In learning how to sew, it has often occurred to me that most of my time is spent tearing things out. Maybe it’s because I’m a new and fumbling seamstress, but I spend more energy ripping out what’s crooked or backward than actually sewing pieces together.

The other day, I talked to a seamstress friend about how great it would be to own a serger machine, which finishes off any garment with a professional touch. Miss Rosalee had a serger, I remember. Dad dropped me off at her townhouse for a sewing lesson one day when I was younger. Rosalee is in her nineties and still sewing— though I’ve heard she had to move her workspace up to a spare bedroom. That morning, she took me to the basement, which had a big, gridded worktable, shelves of supplies, and a few different machines. She had tied thread spools to the pull strings of her fluorescent lights.

I sewed a pair of pants that day— probably the neatest, straightest pair I’ll ever sew, because Miss Rosalee helped me over my shoulder. And when I’d finished the hem, Miss Rosalee let me use her serger to cover a multitude of scragginess.

And yet even a seamstress like Miss Rosalee must own a seam ripper— a little tool with two sharp teeth. It comes with the job, I suppose, because in fashioning something new, there will always be something crooked or backward to tear out, and God himself knows this. God himself does the work of both serging and seam-ripping. After all, the first sad thing he had to do was sew clothes for Adam and Eve:

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them (Gen. 3:21).

The Lord God had to stitch a barrier between him and the man— a thickly-woven curtain that would keep man out of God’s presence for centuries. Adam and Eve left the garden wearing dead animal skins, and the curtain dropped behind them, shutting away all the glory of righteousness.

And that would be the end of the story if God was not a gracious tailor, who sews and tears and then mends us again. Isaiah spoke of a servant who would “bind up the brokenhearted,” and Jesus fulfilled that by first tearing the great seam that kept his brokenhearted people closed off from him.

“And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”

~ Matthew 27:51

From top to bottom, Jesus tore out one stitch of sin, then another. And when he’d finished, there we stood in God’s presence— no longer naked or wearing something dead, but clothed in bright garments that Jesus lovingly, mercifully mended for us.

And so my prayer as a fumbling seamstress and sinner must be:

O holy and gentle Father, always be tearing the seams of my sin.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

~ Ephesians 2:13-14

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