Manufacturers of athletic shoes suggest that they be replaced every six months. College students who depend on government-subsidized Pell grants and student loans to support their families rush to the Apple store for an upgrade as soon as Tim Cook announces the next iPhone. Many tech devices and front-loading washing machines are manufactured so that batteries cannot be replaced and repairs cannot be made. In this age of planned obsolescence, when “disposable” is high praise on Madison Avenue, mending has lost its cachet.
In truth, I have never been much of a mender; even my mother, who spent her childhood in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, was not. We kept a jar of buttons–even removed them from discarded garments for future use–but they were seldom taken from the jar unless we needed them for a birthday-party game of BINGO. I have sewn on the occasional button since leaving that jar, but safety pins work so well for the nonce! I can repair a loose hem, but I confess that I recently threw away a dress because it had ripped at the ankle when I ran over it (several times) with my office chair. I never learned to darn a sock; I don’t really even know what it means. When closets and schedules are overflowing, disposing often seems a better choice than mending.
I wonder, though, if forgetting how to mend our clothes hasn’t insidiously infected other, less fungible aspects of our lives. Ignoring or denying a character flaw is perchance the safety pin in the hem of our morality. The unfinished task becomes the thing I really didn’t want or need to do anyway. The failure to prepare for an assigned presentation morphs into the pearls I didn’t want to cast before swine. The harsh word that can’t be unspoken becomes the customary way of speaking. Today’s unrepented sin insinuates itself into the daily routine and becomes tomorrow’s habit.
This failure to repair our behavior is nowhere more egregious than in our failure to mend broken relationships. How many times have we abandoned lifelong friends because of a perceived slight? How many people have we removed from our address book because we didn’t want to say I’m sorry? Worst of all–because we are commanded to do so–how much love have we thrown away because we refuse or are afraid to forgive?
I doubt that I will learn to darn socks this Advent, even to hang on the mantel on Christmas Eve. But I pray that I will begin to mend the flaws in my character and to repair the relationships I have broken because I am selfish or weak or simply don’t care enough.