There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to tear and a time to mend…
(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7a)
A time to tear…
In Old Testament times, the tearing of one’s clothing was a demonstration of anguish, remorse, sorrow and/or distress. Bad news was a sure way to cause one to tear his clothing. An outward representation of internal hurt.
While I would never tear my clothing in dealing with a prodigal, there have been times I’ve thought about tearing out my hair. Because I too have felt some of the same things—anguish over choices made, remorse over not doing something differently, sorrow over loss and distress over consequences suffered. Yes, there is a time to feel these things and outwardly express them…whether that’s to God, others, one or both.
Outwardly demonstrating how you feel can be a sort of release. It sometimes feels good to cry, scream or otherwise “let loose.” It’s like releasing the volcanic ash that has been lying dormant inside. The key is knowing the right time, the right place and the right people who are around (or if you should do this alone).
A time to mend…
There is also a time of mending. When you lack anguish, remorse, sorrow and/or distress. And not because you don’t care. Perhaps it’s finally arriving at that place of peace, despite the circumstances.
When my daughter informed me at age 17 that she was pregnant, I felt a great deal of anguish. I saw it as the end of her life and a season of my own life I wasn’t ready for. I was in a tearing clothes kind of state. But when she informed me at age 19 that she was once again pregnant, I didn’t feel the anguish. Not because I felt the circumstances were any better…and while maybe in some ways they were, they still weren’t ideal. Yet I was in a mending kind of state. I had peace, in spite of the news.
I don’t think we can always control whether we tear or mend. But I believe that in our moment, God directs us. He knows what’s best for us and He will see us through either way. Yes, there is a time to tear and a time to mend…but regardless, God remains in control (even if we don’t).