A few days ago we honored survivors of gender and sexual violence by wearing jeans on denim day. I participated with other colleagues at my institution. I also happened to present a workshop on the same day at a neighboring institution and so in advance of my session, I informed the coordinators that I would not have on what is deemed “professional attire.” Of course, they welcomed my wardrobe; first it’s a women’s institution and sexual and gender violence affects women at a disproportionately high numbers than any other gender, and secondly, they are young people who challenge social norms, so jeans are fine in their book. After the session, I posted a picture of the over 100 student leaders to whom I engaged and a picture of the jeans I wore that happened to be a pair with rips in them. Admittedly, they were purchased with the rips, but the rips have widened over time. A good sister friend of my friend, LaTonya, replied with the comment beneath the picture, ‘Ripped but not torn.” When I tell you that hit a place deep in my spirit, I mean that thing! As I type and as you read, I’m quite certain, you can write a laundry list of situations and issues and concerns and challenges that may have ripped you, but praise be unto God, you are still here, in one piece, most assuredly whole.
The other day as I was walking to my car following a meeting, I just laughed aloud to myself with sheer joy. Have you ever had those moments whereby you are gently reminded of God’s love for you? You see, over the last year the enemy received permission to disrupt every area of my life. It was if he had a ripping tool in his hand, finding every crevice of connections to me and had a full blown spree. Everything you can imagine, he attacked. Marriage, family, finances, health, work, ministry – he had a field day (remember those?). And while the enemy surely went to and fro in my life seeing whom and what he could devour (I Peter 5:8), I am grateful for II Chronicles 16:9 which countered the enemy’s intentions: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” The enemy ain’t the only one going to and fro! These two scriptures represent a dichotomy, and we must know and be assured that no matter what the enemy intends, God has and will always override the enemy’s means. I’m not suggesting it won’t be challenging, and the eventual solution that emerges likely doesn’t resemble what we’ve hoped nor in our timing. Through it all, we must continue to hold to God’s unchanging hand in a constantly changing world. We must purpose ourselves to remain connected, even if only by a shred that is left as pictured in my jeans.
Like a pair of jeans, we too are durable, flexible, transformative and transitional. We are resilient and adaptable to any situation, and though the enemy would desire us to believe differently, I would suggest we stand upon the historical markings of our walk with God, (even when we didn’t know we were walking with Him) to be reminded of how often we may have been ripped but not torn. In fact, we don’t have to concern ourselves with being torn. When Jesus cried out on the cross and the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom, the atonement for our sins was accomplished, coupled with ready access to the Father. That was the tearing that enables us to only be ripped but never torn, never completely disconnected or discombobulated or disheveled or dissolved. Circumstances can hurt us, try us, challenge us, disrupt us, but we are never, ever torn in the sense that we loose our relationship with Christ who can assist us in navigating to safety in Him, and to be reminded that we are loved beyond what our small, trauma induced minds can conceive.
Whatever you’ve been dealt, I honor your ability to withstand. I know it’s not been easy and there have been plenty of days you’ve wanted to walk away and disappear. I know you’ve wanted the pain to be absorbed by anything other than your heart. And if you’re like me, you long for the thoughts and mental mapping in your mind to cease. I see you. I hear you. I am you. But may we take comfort and celebration in the fact that in this moment, we are sustained. And if we can make it through this moment, there is another moment lingering near that needs us as much as we need it. I don’t know what ripped you, but I know you’re not torn. God specializes in every spec of our fragile and fragmented selves and if we allow, He will hold us together and mend us like no other.