For anyone who has been battered and bruised by the storms of life, award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti has penned her new book, Tattered and Mended: the Art of Healing the Wounded Soul (Abingdon Press/July 7, 2015/ISBN: 978-1426787690 / $15.99). In the interview below, she reminds us that although we all have moments when we feel shattered and wounded, we can piece together the broken pieces of our hearts and lives.
Audra Jennings: For whom did you write your new book, Tattered and Mended?
Cynthia Ruchti: Tattered and Mended was written for all who have been broken and shattered, either by life’s circumstances or at the hand of others, and have lost hope that they could ever claw their way back to wholeness. It’s for those who believe the best they can hope for is simply to be patched together. Yet the truth is God takes the tattered and shattered and makes art of those shards, those frayed threads.
AJ: You say when you sat down to write Tattered and Mended one premise filled your heart. Can you share with us what it was?
CR: People are tattered. The world says, “Then let’s make tattered fashionable,” but God invites us to mend.
AJ: Why did you choose to use fabric as an allegory throughout the book?
CR: Fabric is one of the primary examples used in the book, but I also used several other examples across the spectrum of art — paintings, doll-making, fiber crafts, pottery, sculpting, metalwork, jewelry-making — that show us how something that looks beyond hope can become not only useful again, but stronger and valuable in new ways.
AJ: Is there a formula or prescription for finding healing in Tattered and Mended?
CR: Formulas sound nice on paper, but each individual’s pain is unique, making a one-size-fits-all prescription nearly impossible. Certainly there are principles we can apply, habits we can adopt and perspectives that aid us as we heal and mend. Just as a master artist addresses each canvas as a fresh opportunity for creating, God bends over us knowing what we need, knowing the amount of pressure we can bear, seeing what even we can’t see and applying His creative imagination coupled with deep compassion as He works.
The key is submitting to the process. He longs to heal. He specializes in mending and invites us to the mending table. Our responsibility is to allow Him to work as only He can.
AJ: You write about the practice of sashiko (sah-SHEE-koh) and other decorative mending techniques. What do these practices symbolize to you?
CR: I’ve filled a Pinterest board with examples of the creativity others have used to patch frayed hems or cuffs, patch holes in the knees of jeans, use broken china in jewelry, and practice the Japanese sashiko and boro mending stitches. Those delicate, precise, careful stitches from hundreds of years ago were meant to strengthen weak fabric on common items like a fishing coat or a pauper’s jacket. Now they hang in museums, admired by people like you and me who marvel at their workmanship and the beauty. Precision by the artisan created artwork from a mundane mending task. I’m overwhelmed by the comparisons here to how the process of our soul mending doesn’t always feel good — sometimes like a thousand pinpricks — and it often takes longer than we think it should. However, the end result can be an encouragement to someone else, possibly many years later.
AJ: Humans try to heal themselves by slapping a bandage on the wound. How does God heal differently?
CR: He does nothing carelessly or unintentionally. We can search diligently and not find a place in His Word where He decides, “Eh, that’s good enough.” He’s a God of excellence, trustworthiness and thoughtfulness. We can look to creation for confirmation that He is a master at details. He doesn’t settle for utilitarian purpose only. He goes beyond workable to beautiful.
AJ: Why do you think many people remain in a broken state?
CR: Some of us have come to expect too little. We think we don’t deserve anything more than where we now stand in the healing process. On the other hand, we may expect too much, growing bitter if the mending doesn’t happen as quickly as we imagine, in the way we imagine or with the results we envision. That bitterness is counterproductive to the healing we need and creates self-imposed setbacks.
Still others are broken and don’t yet know God cares they are hurting. They don’t yet know they’re mendable. I ache for them.
AJ: Tell us about a time in your life when you felt tattered and in need of mending.
CR: In Tattered and Mended, I mention a period of time that brought me to my knees — or even lower than that. When Lyme disease was a fairly “new” disease, as far as the general public was concerned, I had the dubious honor of being one of the first in my area of Wisconsin to contract it. It crept in stealthily, one symptom at a time. It was a year and a half before we knew what was causing the relentless headaches, heart-rhythm problems, debilitating pain in joints and muscles and a dozen other symptoms. I had young children, a ministry that taxed my energies and an at-that-time unknown disease that raged through my body. It reduced me to a lump of fatigue, uncertainty, concern and an emotional drain that left me shredded. I plowed through because I had no other choice and because I’d learned God is faithful and capable even when our strength is completely gone.
AJ: What can we learn about healing from the miracles Jesus performed while He was here on earth?
CR: We could talk about that for a long time and not exhaust the topic. The thoughts that come instantly to my mind are these:
- He never performed a half-miracle. He always brought complete healing. Leprous skin as smooth as a newborn’s. Full sight. Not just the lame walking, but dancing. He anticipates the need and the side effects for others when we emerge fully mended.
- He used an incredibly wide variety of methods to heal. Why should we expect our mending to look just like someone else’s?
- He seems to delight in tackling what others find impossible. He finds nothing intimidating, not even emotional or physical traumas that would send others fleeing. Our tatters are not beyond His abilities.
AJ: Many people don’t find wholeness because they can’t let go of hurt and resentment. Why is forgiveness so closely tied to emotional freedom?
CR: Unforgiveness keeps us trapped in a state that is not a great environment for healing. Wounds can’t heal well in unsanitary conditions. Unforgiveness is spiritually unsanitary, and while it may seem natural, it isn’t healthy.
AJ: How do you hope this book will offer strength and hope to those who are going through a difficult circumstance?
CR: It’s one thing to believe God can make us better on a soul-deep level. It’s another to understand His intention is to make artwork from our messes and distresses. Like a master artist, He takes broken bits and frayed threads and mends us so thoroughly we can’t unravel, and the result is a thing of beauty.
AJ: What do you mean when you say you’re an “observer-writer”?
CR: Some write as experts on their subject of choice. I write from a place of listening and observing, then I attempt to express what others feel but can’t find a way to put into words.
AJ: What is the significance of the phrase “hemmed in hope”?
CR: Everything I write, fiction or nonfiction, has hope at its core. Jesus came because of our need for hope. It’s my prayer readers will close the books I write or leave a speaking event or even a private conversation they’ve had with me with renewed confidence, embracing the message, “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in hope.”
To keep up with Cynthia Ruchti, visit www.cynthiaruchti.com. You can also become a fan on Facebook (Cynthia Ruchti) or follow her on Twitter (@cynthiaruchti).