I’ve had mending on my mind and wanted to write about all forms of mending, but hadn’t been able to find a way in until I saw this:
I’m a long-time mender. I recently fixed a favorite purse for my mother, replacing the torn pocket with some vivid yellow lining. I stitched up a few other ripped places, re-glued the lining into the frame and sent it back to her; she was pleased as punch to have her little purse back in working order.
I always look for handsewing in pieces of art, and found it in this image by David Habben, in a recent art exhibit in Salt Lake City. It depicts Jesus and the adulteress with her angry mob of accusers. The clenched fists with rocks, the tortured shapes, and the vile expressions in the background convey the tension in this well-known scene.
In the foreground, Christ kneels and writes on the ground, this thread looping around his other hand. This puzzled me, as I knew it wasn’t in the original story.
I found gold stitching in areas of the woman’s veil, clues to my small mystery. My sister, viewing this with me, provided the connection: calmly drawing in the dust with his finger, the accusers slinking away after his measured rejoinder, Christ was mending. The accused woman may have stitched her clothing, but now He would mend her soul.
A mended surface can carry a scar. In the case of boro, or of artful kintsugi, we appreciate the addition. But more often that not, we humans don’t want imperfections, or wrinkles, or sadness, death, old age, or any evidence of a rent place. We want happy. We want life to go on with daisies and sunshine and lollipops: no fights or bad diagnoses or mistakes that reverberate for generations.
For years I’ve taken comfort in Eugene O’Neill’s line: “Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.” Are we broken? Certainly we only have to the watch unbelievable tragedies of this past weekend trickle in a headline at a time on our screens, to know that broken and torn places are piling up somewhere in a onslaught of rage. I turned away from the yet-again, awful headlines, not knowing what to do.
I take comfort in O’Neill’s wisdom, and Christ’s golden thread. Rather than join the fury, I can fix a torn pocket, a broken heart, work through a quarrel, listen to someone who is trying to heal a shattered life. Whether at the epicenter of the current bad news or in our own homes, we can do our part to draw together the gaping edges, mending them with careful, even stitches.