CHURCH CORNER: Shirts a metaphor for our tie-dyed lives

By Kelsey Harrington

Youth Minister, Sacred Heart Catholic Church

We recently had our youth group end-of-the-year party. Our youth ministry core team had decided that our big activity would be tie-dyeing T-shirts. So we had all the stations set up: rinsing, tying, dyeing and wrapping. We had more than 65 kids show up with white T-shirts in hand, ready to make their creation! Of course it was on the verge of raining, so we were all crammed under the covered patio area. Organized chaos would be the best way to describe the 50 minutes it took for everyone to finish.

It wasn’t until after the event, when I was reflecting on things, that I realized that the process of tie-dyeing a T-shirt is a great metaphor for our faith-lives as Christians, ups and downs, the good and bad, free will, God’s plan for our life. It’s all there.

The White Shirt

When we are baptized we believe we are wiped clean, a new slate. Original sin is washed away and we are a new creation with the lord. We wear white garments as an outward sign of our inward dignity and cleanliness. In the Rite of Baptism it says, “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”

In tie-dyeing, you must start with a clean white T-shirt in order for the colors to be as vibrant and bright as possible, it also helps for it to be dunked in water…another connection to baptism.

Tying the Shirt

Once the shirt has been dunked, we tie it up with rubber bands or strings. There are many different ways to twist it and tie it, each person’s shirt is unique. A tighter twist and tighter bands make for more defined shapes. In life there are constantly things that tie us up in knots. Daily struggles can make us frustrated or angry. People can let us down, school can get tough, traffic can prevent us from getting somewhere on time, work can get in the way of family and friends, bills and expenses can overwhelm us. All of these things can frustrate us and bring us down. Sometimes making us act in negative and un-Christian like ways.

We get tied up in knots and allow those knots to negatively affective our attitude, moods, and interactions with others. Instead of acting out of love, we act out of hate and frustration. These knots end up making us look like a tied shirt, balled up, lumped…not looking like a shirt at all.

Dyeing the Shirt

After the shirt is tied, we color different sections of it with dye. Applying the dye gets extremely messy, colors everywhere, dyes mixing together to make other colors, the shirt transforms from a white tied mess to a colorful tied mess. But you don’t really know what it’s going to look like.

The stains go everywhere. Sometimes we allow these daily knots in our lives to affect us for extended periods of time. Suddenly we become a frustrated and angry person. Instead of being living examples of Christ’s love, we are stained individuals not allowing Christ into our lives. We hold on to grudges, we gossip and put others down, we’re pompous after winning a game, we forget to show love to those most important to us.

Slowly, our white garment from Baptism, our Christian self, is covered in stains. Now not only are we tied up in knots, but we are covered in stains, not really sure what we are supposed to look like.

Washing and untying the shirt

After waiting 24 hours, we wash the shirt in order to remove excess dye. The dye that is supposed to stay remains. We also get to take the rubber bands off and finely view the unknown. We see the final product, what it is meant to be, a bright, colorful T-shirt!

Even though life gets us down sometimes, and we allow it to tie us up and stain us, God is always there, waiting for us to come back to him. He is waiting with open arms, ready to wash us and un-tie the knots. He wipes us clean again, allowing us to be who we are truly meant to be. Not an angry or frustrated person, not a person living in hate…a bright, colorful person of joy and love, ready to spread that love of Christ to others.

God created plans for each one of us before we were born, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope” (Jeremiah 29: 11). However, sometimes we allow society and the secular world to guide our lives, which is when we get tied up and stained. These experiences are important, because we learn from them. We grow out of these moments of strife and struggle; we become better people because of them. We take lessons from different moments of weakness with us, they are each different colors on our tie-dyed shirt of life. Without them, we wouldn’t be who are meant to be…colorful and bright Christians living lives of joy, love and hope!


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