Even though it only happens in dire situations, I find myself laughing out loud every time I read that someone tears their clothes. I mean, seriously, how ridiculous would it look if I dropped to my knees and ripped my shirt every time the Cincinnati Reds lost a game? Wouldn’t you laugh if you saw me stroll into Wal-Mart with a torn hoodie after my wife makes me watch the next Twilight movie?
So entertained by this notion, I had to look it up. Was this a metaphor for something? Were there specific guidelines for doing this? Did people have “tearing clothes” available for such these times so their Sunday best wouldn't be ruined?
As it turns out, it is just as it appears. In that time, it was common for people to tear a piece off of their clothes or tear a slit in an item of clothing or even rip something off on some occasions to display that they were in mourning, deeply upset about something, righteously angry, in great sorrow, or as an outward display that something terrible has happened.
To be honest, when I finally got into what this was really about, I realized how much closer Christians could bond together if this was still a common practice. Think about it. What do most people do when they are hurting or sad or ashamed? They hide it. We hide our sins, we hide our pain, we hide our sorrows, and we hide our failures.
When we hide these things, we make it impossible for others to help us, hurt with us, and love on us. We build up walls that keep others out and prevent the Christian fellowship that is vital for the health and growth of the Church. We pretend that everything is perfect, and that almost always makes things worse.
But of course, there is the fact that God does not want us to tear our clothes anymore. Instead, He wants us to let our hearts be torn and to turn toward Him.
That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. (Joel 2:12-13 NLT)
Returning to the Lord includes repenting of your sins, sharing your sorrows, and allowing your Christian brothers and sisters to help you through your pain. No, you should not tear your clothes. But you also should not hide your mourning, grief, or anger.
We need to be more open about our burdens so that it will be easier for us to give them to God. We need to let others in on our problems so they can be part of the solution. Unless we share our troubles with one another, we will not be able to function as the body of Christ as it is intended.
While there is no longer a need to tear our clothes, we have to let others help us mend our torn hearts so we may all return to God together.