A rectangular, green patch on the tan church pew caught my eye one Sunday when I was leaving the sanctuary.
A patch on a church pew? What an astonishing sight in a fairly new sanctuary. I wonder what could have happened to cause a tear in a thick piece of brocade fabric?
The patch invited lots of questions. Who damaged the pew? What kind of tear or hole rested underneath?
Remembered how patches were used to repair holes in clothes years ago. When I was growing up, patches were used to extend the use of clothing—if a hole emerged in the knee of my corduroy pants, my mother ironed on a patch and the pants were ready to wear again.
The worn-out elbow in a long-sleeve shirt didn’t get an iron-on patch. Instead, she would sew one by hand, and after a few washings and wearings, it started to come loose. The threads separated, warranting a new patch—and before long it experienced the same fate as the first. After two or three hand-sewn patches pulled and fell off, dangling threads enlarged and stretched the hole in the shirt, finally prompting us to dispose of the garment and replace it.
I’ve recently dealt with a series of losses. My close friend and mentor, Annabel, died on December 20, 2016. Another dear friend is moving out of state. Other friends are busy and don’t seem to have time to be together as we have in the past.
Loss upon loss has weighed me down these early weeks in the new year. Complicating these situations are the decades of loss from my childhood and adolescence. As a friend told me recently, “the latest or current loss encompasses all loss.” This means I am affected more deeply by present loss because I have limited grounding or foundation of solid nurturing and love.
The Leaks of Patched Wineskin
Searching the Bible for a scripture to help, I came across Matthew 9:17 – “Nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, for the skins will burst, the wine will pour out, and the skins will be ruined.” This passage speaks to how patched holes in a wineskin can’t hold the wine. The patch may last temporarily, but leaks around the patch will weaken the hold.
I thought about my heart as a piece of wineskin that has been patched and patched for so many years that parts of my heart are bulging from so much loss with weakened threads.
Unfortunately, no classes are available that deal with extensive loss—especially loss that isn’t from death, but cumulative life circumstances.
Sewing Patches for My Heart
Like the seamstress who got some fabric to patch the hole in the church pew, I cut 4-inch squares of fabric and laid these over a 12-inch piece of cloth representing my heart. I began stitching. Twelve 4-inch squares eventually covered the cloth of my heart. Still not feeling peace, I began another square using the same procedure. As I sew these “patches for my heart,” I ask God to keep my focus on God, to comfort my heart, to restore equilibrium and balance to my emotions and lighten my path.
Questions for Reflection:
1. What experiences have you had with patches?
2. How does your heart ache?
3. In what ways can God patch your heart?
Prayer: God, we are frequently in cycles of loss and gain, confusion and imbalance, sadness and joy, sometimes each within a minute of our day. Let your love and light shine and hold those threads that secure our patches tightly. And when loss comes and the threads part and loosen, come in and stitch so that new life in you can come again. Restore our souls and hold our hearts in your embrace. Amen.