In Tattered and Mended, readers walk through a gallery of reclaimed and restored art as well as broken and restored lives of those who have gone before us. With a gentle touch and personable wisdom, Cynthia Ruchti shows how even the most threadbare soul can once again find healing and hope.
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Tattered and Mended
The Art of Healing the Wounded Soul
By Cynthia Ruchti
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2015 Cynthia Ruchti
All rights reserved.
THE ART OF MENDING THE SOUL
People are tattered. Some say, "Then let's make tattered fashionable." But God invites us to mend.
HE WOKE THAT BLEACHED-OUT MORNING WITH the taste of dust in his mouth. Sleeping on the ground will do that to a person. He pushed himself to a sitting position and only rubbed the sleep from his eyes because the crusty bits hurt, not because they interfered with his line of sight.
The sound of movement beside him pressed him to reach for the water bottle he'd used as a pillow in the night. It was gone. He tapped the ground in an arc far wider than the distance where it had lain. Some street kid thought it was funny to swipe the homeless guy's water supply. Nice.
The man drew the ragged edges of his coat tight around him, a ridiculously inadequate protection. But it was all he had. The sun on his face felt warmest at chin-level. Not much past dawn. He stood, the ache in his bones more familiar and pronounced every day.
With his hand pressed against the stone wall that had been at his back through the night, he felt his way to the corner and waited, ears attentive. He crossed the cobbled street, arms extended, head bent. Another stone wall greeted his outstretched hands. He followed it to its end, the stubbled grasses now underfoot.
If he kept one sandal on dirt and the other on stubble, he could walk a straight line to the spot where the air on his face cooled slightly. Under the shade of the olive tree, he'd spend his day wrestling with himself. If a beggar didn't look pathetic,who would notice him? If he did, how could he retain any thread of dignity?
He could have made something of his life ... if he weren't blind.
That may not be how morning started for Bartimaeus, as the gospel story recounts. But it might not be far from the truth. We have so many unanswered questions from his story told by Mark in the Bible.
Jesus and his followers came into Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho, together with his disciples and a sizable crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, Timaeus' son, was sitting beside the road. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was there, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!" Many scolded him, telling him to be quiet, but he shouted even louder, "Son of David, show me mercy!"
Jesus stopped and said, "Call him forward."
They called the blind man, "Be encouraged! Get up! He's calling you."
Throwing his coat to the side, he jumped up and came to Jesus.
Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?"
The blind man said, "Teacher, I want to see."
Jesus said, "Go, your faith has healed you." At once he was able to see, and he began to follow Jesus on the way. (Mark 10:46-52)
So many unanswered questions.
What was daily life like for Bartimaeus before that moment? Did he eat dust for breakfast? Where were his friends? What besides his coat did he leave behind when he followed Jesus? What future might he have had once he regained his sight? And how would that have looked if he'd decided to remain a beggar after he could see?
The crowd treated him as if he were a disturbance, when he was actually the object of God's attention.
Tucked between the folds of those seven short verses are insights your heart may be waiting for. Mine was.
The scene takes place in Jericho, an historically rich setting—a place where God did the impossible in a hopeless situation through unusual means. You can read about Jericho's history in Joshua 6. In Bartimaeus's time, the setting itself spoke of possibilities and hope.
Bartimaeus had no livelihood, other than begging. Losing his sight—if he ever had any—stripped his soul. His blindness prevented him from participating in the norms of society, including work.
He sat at the side of the road, choking on the dust of the passersby. Then his ears picked up on activity uncommon to their area. A celebrity and his entourage walked right in front of Bartimaeus.
Desperate enough to believe Jesus might have an answer when no doctor had, Bartimaeus shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!"
The crowd tried to silence the unruly beggar. "Quiet down. You're making a scene!" He shouted all the louder. "Son of David, show me mercy!"
The cry of a tattered soul.
Jesus instructed his entourage to call the man forward.
The disciples told the beggar, "Be encouraged! Get up! He's calling you."
So many times the disciples misunderstood who Jesus was, what he came to do, why he would care about the homeless and destitute and desperate, the broken, the tattered, the shattered. This time, it seems, they got it. They encouraged Bartimaeus, comforted him, even before anything further happened. It was honor enough that Jesus had called for him.
The beggar did something surprising in response. He not only rose to his feet, he jumped up. And he threw his coat aside to get to Jesus without encumbrance. What homeless person doesn't cling fiercely, protectively, to his coat and anything the pockets hold, naturally obsessed with those scraps of possessions?
Jesus didn't start his interaction with the soul-wounded beggar by listing the man's failings or pronouncing him instantly cured or warning him that he'd better get his act together. Jesus asked, "What do you want me to do for you?" He extended an invitation.
The world's most rhetorical question?
From other passages of Scripture, we learn that Jesus knew people's needs, their minds, and their hearts without being told. Why that question?
Bartimaeus would have gone to his grave a blind man if he hadn't responded. I wonder how many milliseconds ticked off before the blind man said, "Teacher, I want to see." Did he pause a moment to consider what might have lain behind that "What can I do for you?" Was there something in the holy hush of that scene—a place where God made impossible things happen in hopeless situations through unusual means—that convinced Bartimaeus it was a question far deeper and more life-altering than it appeared on the surface?
He'd shouted his desperate plea for mercy. Now he had the ear of the Mercy-Giver. What did the beggar most need? His eyesight restored? Or something more?
His ache reached soul-deep. His need had a spiritual component as well as physical, societal, and emotional factors. "I want ... I need ... to see."
Jesus said, "Go, your faith has healed you."
But Bartimaeus didn't go, didn't pick up his tattered life where he'd left it along the side of the road. He could instantly see—on every level. The no-longer-a-beggar, no-longer-blind Bartimaeus trained his newly sighted eyes on the back of Jesus' cloak. The Bible tells us he "began to follow Jesus on the way."
He left all the possibilities now open to him for the honor of following Jesus. I wonder if one of the disciples ran back to grab the beggar's coat for him.
The tattered and wounded line roadways, courtrooms, breakrooms at work, family rooms, churches, hospital corridors. You may be one of them. How would you answer if Jesus asked, "What do you want me to do for you?"
Because Jesus is asking. It is the Divine Invitation to mend.
You might answer, "Stop these migraines!" or "What a ridiculous question. Can't you see I'm still reeling from the offenses against me in childhood?" or "PTSD. Ever heard of it?" or "I have three children with autism," or "My mother-in-law is out to destroy me," or "This recent job loss has completely drained me of all self-respect," or "I can't even define it, but of all people, I thought you'd know."
This is the detail I'd too long missed, a detail that changes everything. God doesn't just heal wounded souls. He heals us artfully.
God creates art from our brokenness. For Bartimaeus, the divine mend changed every aspect of his life, including what he did from that moment on, his gait, his perception of the world around him. He saw colors and shapes, saw the textures he'd only felt before, saw expressions on people's faces and pain in their eyes—a pain he would watch lift as people encountered Jesus as he had.
For centuries, the artistic have reclaimed exquisite beauty from the ragged, frayed, shattered, bent, damaged, disfigured, and unraveled—mending what was once thought beyond repair. The same can happen with the human soul.
God calls us to mend, to heal, to breathe into our aching lungs the invigorating air of wholeness, to experience the gratitude and sweet exhaustion of having come through, having found him an expert and artistic mender.
The medical facility in a town near my home boasts a dramatic new interior design. For years, a portion of the main lobby has been devoted to an art gallery. It could have been housed in a storefront downtown, or near the mall, or in a stand-alone building with an avant-garde architectural style that shouts, "ART!"
Instead, the gallery is tucked into a massive medical complex that sees thousands of patients every day, most of whom would rather be anywhere other than the clinic. They come in hobbled, wheelchair-bound, with casts and canes and light-obliterating sunglasses, with gauze-wrapped heads and neck braces and expressions that say, "I'm here for my biopsy" before the words spill from their mouths.
They come in pairs—the dad pushing his son in a wheelchair or vice versa. The mom and her twenty-ish daughter with four-year-old tendencies. The young couple pushing a stroller and an IV stand.
They come for diabetes checkups and depression help, for cataracts and chronic coughs, pain management and prenatal exams.
And many of them take a detour through the gallery. A detour from their mess to the quiet room with soft music, ambient lighting, and art. Someone in the clinic's history understood the healing power of art.
The gallery recently expanded to include mini displays of pottery, blown glass, and other works of master artists at the ends of elevator halls and in the windowed display cases that form one wall of the cafeteria. The cafeteria. Beef stroganoff and a little art. A discussion about the fresh diagnosis ... and a little art.
From the simplest appointment to the most unnerving, I try to allow time for a visit to the gallery to take in the latest exhibit. I did so again today. Watercolors and stained glass panels filled the room. It doesn't escape notice that so much of what we call art is an artistic expression of the broken, the incomplete, the rejected, the pain-wracked yet inspiring.
An artist finds beauty in an abandoned farmhouse; a broken split-rail fence; the one handleless cup that doesn't match any of the others in the scene; weeds hugging the edges of a vacant lot; an empty walnut shell; an elderly, bent man on a park bench; the gnarled hand of a grandmother holding the flawless, dimpled hand of a newborn. A single spent rosebud lying at the base of a lush bouquet. A candle tucked inside a shattered-and-glued water pitcher, light streaming through all the crooked spaces. The exquisite teardrop clinging to the toddler's face. The exquisite toddler. The rusty door hinge, telling a thousand stories. The satin finish of the hand carved wood bowl, its fascinating design imprinted into the wood centuries ago by what then were considered destructive insects.
The artist sensed beauty there, and communicated it to us, the art appreciators.
Life is a gallery of scenes of beauty in the tattered.
Our Creator is not insensitive to the weariness of a soul long tattered. He's more keenly aware than we are of the length and severity of each snag, the fragility of the thin spots, the acutely tender soul bruises. We feel them. He seesand feels them. He knows where they came from. He flinches with each new injury. He is, as the Bible tells us, "intimately familiar with suffering" (Isaiah 53:3 ISV).
This is the God who calls himself Healer. "I am the LORD who heals you" (Exodus 15:26). The Hebrew word for "Lord" in that verse is Jehovah-Rophe, or Jehovah-Raphe/Rapha, which doesn't merely name him "The God Who Can Heal" or "The God Who Heals" but "God Your Healer." A personal connection between us and The Mender.
This life-adjusting viewpoint of who God is at his core appeared first in Exodus 15. It referenced the children of Israel finally freed from slavery in Egypt, but facing starvation and dehydration with no source of water in the desert. They traveled for three days, searching for water and found none, until they came to Marah.
Imagine their relief. Their children and elderly—who suffered the most severely from the lack—would live. Their thirst could be quenched.
But no. The waters at Marah were undrinkable. Bitter. Unsafe.
Moses gave the people of Israel a new name for their God—Jehovah Rapha, Your Healer—when God turned the bitter, unsafe water into sweet. Everyone's need, met.
Sweet, refreshing, whole.
Although God could and often did heal physical infirmities, this cherished, hope-giving name catapulted into the world as a result of the kind of mending we often most need—converting soul misery into something we can live with, wholeness where holes once dominated, raw edges sewn together expertly so they can't unravel again.
"I can't unravel. I'm hemmed in hope," the sticky note hanging on the edge of my computer screen reminds me.
Your Healer. My Healer. The one who specializes in mending the bitter so thoroughly it becomes sweet.
Medical science reports the mother's womb is such a healing-rich environment that babies operated on in utero often emerge at birth with no sign of a scar. No evidence of the surgery.
In that womb setting, that environment closest on earth to the perfection of Eden-before-human-intervention, God brings about a healing so complete there's no trace of a scar.
This side of the womb, scars show. Skillful surgeons can minimize their visibility, tuck them into natural creases in our skin, hide them under a hairline. But in the right light, scars can be artistic, revealing the imprint of The Healer.
When we're left tattered, scraped raw, frayed, ripped apart, tugging on the sleeves of our selves to cover deep emotional bruises, Jesus invites us—as he invited Bartimaeus—to come and mend. It is the core of his gospel, and the end product of his expertise.
We're not accustomed to mending. Darning eggs—a tool, not a food—are considered antiques. Did you have to Google "darning eggs" to make sense of that sentence, to know darning can be an adjective? That's how foreign it is to some of us when talking about socks with holes worn through. Who pulls the darning needle from the sewing basket—who has a sewing basket? —spreads the hole over a darning egg, and patches a sock anymore? When life rubs a sock raw, one of two things happens. The sock is tossed with little remorse into either the wastebasket or the rag bag. A hole makes it disposable.
And when marriages get frayed around the edges? When a friendship suffers a ripped seam? When disappointment slashes what look like bear claw tears in the fabric we thought could protect us? When faith wears through?
You can mend.
A whisper-sound. Firm, but gentle as a celestial sigh.
Mend. Staying tattered doesn't make you more real. It makes you ragged.
Historians tell us that ancient fabrics often reveal artistic touches—embroidered flowers, birds, appliques, large hand-carved buttons, other embellishments—which on careful observation are shown to cover what had once been a flaw in the fabric, a worn spot, a tear. Rather than coarsely stitching the rough edges together, a tailor or seamstress with an artistic eye transformed the garment into something even more elegant or intriguing than the original item.
That's the approach God takes. He can leave us in better shape—stronger, braver, more beautiful—than before we had a problem.
He isn't a halfway healer.
He never left a blind man partially sighted. Jesus didn't perform half-miracles. He didn't advocate that we could be "okay" but rather that we could be mended. Whole. No longer tattered.
"He heals the brokenhearted and ignores their wounds." No. The psalmist's lyrics were these: "He heals the brokenhearted / And binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3 NKJV). He mends. He sutures. He slathers salve on the injured area and wraps it in holy bandages presoaked in mercy. Then, under his divine touch, wounds heal. Even wounds that cut bone-deep or leave raised-welt scars.
"He heals the brokenhearted and makes headlines from their wounds"?
"... and celebrates their wounds"?
"... and creates museums from their wounds"?
No. He mends.
It's no haphazard patch job, no Milwaukee Brewers sticker slapped over the booboo on a car's bumper. (Ask me where that analogy came from.) No spiritual duct tape or multiple crosshatched rubber bands. No grime-collecting Ace bandages.
His mending is artistry. Restoration is his specialty. Renewing broken things is his heart. Reclaiming shattered souls—repairing tattered lives—his preoccupation.
Everything he does is rooted in an invitation for us to "Come."
The Divine Invitation is to come-sit-heal and discover the art in God's artistic stitching.
This book is part of that invitation to think about soul-mending as a divine art form and about what it takes to experience healing on a soul-deep level. May you too find an artful relief for the tattered places in your soul as you walk through a gallery of the reclaimed and restored, explore mending techniques now celebrated as art, reflect on a tapestry of stories of the tattered and mended, and discover a pattern of hope for your hurt.
Excerpted from Tattered and Mended by Cynthia Ruchti. Copyright © 2015 Cynthia Ruchti. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Art of Mending the Soul 1
Chapter 2 Sashiko and Boro Rescue: Elegance from the Tattered 17
Chapter 3 Quilt Reconstruction: An Artful Mend 37
Chapter 4 Metal Recycling: From Dumpster to Gallery 51
Chapter 5 Tapestry Restoration: Beauty in the Ragged 67
Chapter 6 Fine Art Reclamation: A Meticulous Mend 81
Chapter 7 Needlework Repair: Recaptured Wholeness 93
Chapter 8 Stained Glass Recovery: Starting Out Shattered 115
Chapter 9 Antique Doll Redemption: The Designer's Touch 131
Chapter 10 Broken Furniture Refurbishing: Pre-Art 145
Chapter 11 Jewelry Regeneration: Unfixable but Mendable 157
Beyond the End:
As You Mend 179
Mending Prayers 181
Stretching to Mend 185
With Deepest Gratitude 189