In the Japanese culture, there is an artform known as Kintsugi. It is the process of restoring and mending broken pottery with lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum dust. In Kintsugi, there is no attempt to hide the damage, but to celebrate, accept, and even highlight the parts that which have been broken. The broken areas, and the repair of those parts, are treated as something that is part and parcel of an object’s history. Rather than disguising the fragments, and the fact that something has been broken, the gold joinery makes even more beautiful the previously broken piece (Traditional Kyoto).
For the Christian, beyond the repair of the fragmented pieces within us, is also the possibility of being made completely anew through the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation.
Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. One in Christ.”
Nonetheless, this masterpiece can, through the circumstances of life become marred, damaged, torn, cracked, cast aside, and broken.
We will thus need to go back to the time of Creation in Genesis to understand how God our Father intended Man and Woman to be. From the evidence in Scripture, we come to understand that Man and Woman are created and made in the likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:25). In the second account of creation in the following chapter, we come to know that Man and Woman are created as subjects of a Covenant with God. As a subject to this covenant, Man and Woman are partners to the Great I Am and the Ancient of Days. He and She must co-operate with the Will of God in choosing and discerning what is right and wrong, what is good and evil, what is light and darkness. This choice culminates in the end result of Life or Death. Humanity was made with the purpose of being docile and obedient as created beings to his and her Maker, with the firm promise that God Himself will supply all of their needs. Besides trusting through obedience, Man and Woman were made to exercise complete dependence on God (Pope John Paul II, 1979).
The Theology of the Body reminds us gently of our Truth, and of how we are to perceive ourselves in the dignity that God our Father intended for us. Our bodies are the efficacious sign of the covenant and relationship with God our Father. However, it becomes difficult for us to express the fullness of our personhood when illnesses and trauma come upon us. The problem comes when this truth of who we are, is replaced by a lie. Oftentimes these lies accompany the things and events of our life that present with varied permutations of trauma.
Accordingly, Jeff Cavins (2022) has unpacked four core wounds that people have to varying degrees:
The first wound is the wound of rejection, the second, the wound of abandonment, the third, the wound of helplessness, and fourth, the wound of fear. I would add a fifth wound to the mix: The wound of abuse and trauma.
See if you can pick out what Core Wounds are present in the following scenarios:
Case Study 1:
Matilda finds it difficult to socialise and spends her day cooped up at home. She feels lonely and yearns for companionship, but at the same time is worried about how others may perceive and judge her. She feels that she cannot handle the rejection that anyone may have of her, so she keeps her hobbies a secret. At her ministry connect groups, which she goes for reluctantly, she avoids confrontation, and makes herself as low-key and invisible as she can. Yet, her co-workers and ministry members perceive her to be a friendly person who always says, “yes”. She doesn’t turn any request down but she secretly resents the tasks that her co-workers and ministry members keep asking her to do. She cannot bring herself to tell them the truth about how she feels.
Case Study 2:
Kok Kee has been struggling with addiction for some time. After a stressful day at work, his routine of a cigarette in one hand and a stash of pornographic material in the other provide him with some semblance of control and power. He fantasizes that he is as manly as the pornography actor who seems to get the women he desires. He tells himself, “I am not enough”, “I am not loved”, and “I am of no value”. Sometimes, he tries to fill the emptiness inside with binge-eating and chain smoking. He has promised himself to quit smoking and pornography, but seems stuck in a cycle that he cannot get himself out of. Feeling lousy about himself, he reaches out for his familiar stash of pornographic material.
Case Study 3:
Ling Ling was a child who grew up in an orphanage run by nuns. She has never known her biological parents, and has lived her life going from one foster home to the next. When she was a teenager, the foster parent chose the other girl over her. In order to save herself from this distressing thought that she was not worthy of love, she began to fashion herself in a way that was classy and sophisticated. When she got her first job, she started buying expensive designer bags and dresses, and would doll herself up. She enjoys being the centre of attention and likes the sense and feeling of being needed. She also started a lying habit to save her own face. She would claim the credit for projects she didn’t do, and would lie about her achievements to paint herself in a favourable light. Her ministry members called her out to have a heart-to-heart talk, but she changed the subject and became aggressive and defensive.
Case Study 4:
Peter has been in the same job for over twenty years. Inwardly, he feels that it would do him good to have a change of pace and scenery, but he is afraid of the volatile job market and how he is competing with other younger candidates in the same industries. Peter is described by his friends as a meek and quiet person. He is often second-guessing his decisions and feels anxious that his ministry members have elected him for a role of leadership.
Case Study 5:
Adhisha witnessed firsthand, the domestic abuse that her mother underwent in a loveless marriage to a drunkard, a womaniser, and a gambler. At a young age she left school to take on jobs so as to support the income of her family. She took on the role of caregiver to protect and care for her siblings during the times when her mother was hospitalised. She has no intention of getting married, and would rather complete any projects herself independently, as she finds it difficult to trust anyone.
The human experience is necessarily complex, and the above fictitious scenarios merely present a sliver of wounds that we experience. There is so much more to unpack and excavate. Sometimes, there are even overlaps.
However, we can see from the above examples that we are shaped by our lived experiences, and these informs how we interact with others, how we minister to others, how we perceive ourselves, and also the patterns of our sins. The processes of healing also take time. The problem is, many of us are focused on fixing the problem or sweeping the issue under the rug, both of which may not amount to any good in the long run.
A part of that healing, comes from rewiring our thought processes and our responses to events and circumstances.
What are some truths that we can turn to in helping restore the shattered Christian (that is ourselves)?
First, the truth that while we cannot do much on our own accord, as Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The challenges in life are conquerable, only because we are not alone in our battles, but because God is ever present. It is He who made us, who walks with us, dwells within us, and who is victorious in the wars that are waged about us.
Second, that our identity is firmly rooted in Christ. As Psalm 100:3, affirms, “Know that the Lord is God. We are his people, it is He who made us, the sheep of his pasture.” We are of Christ and we belong to Christ. If we began in Christ, we have the promise that we can end with Christ. We are also not a people who are abandoned or forsook, but a people sought after. The Father seeks us out and runs to us from afar as with the story of the Prodigal Son. God our Father is looking out for us from afar, and it is He who takes the initiative to run out to us and embrace us. John 6:37: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me.”
Third, the truth that we are really and truly loved and forgiven, is a truth that we will need to remember. Our identities are not defined by the traumatic events that have happened to us, but that first and foremost, we are the children of God our Father, who genuinely is concerned about our welfare. As Ephesians 1: 3-6 exhorts: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favour of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.”
Last, we have a God, being truly human and divine, who completely understands what it feels like to suffer. This assurance is found in Hebrews 4: 14-16 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”
These are first steps in the right direction, and healing happens at different seasons and paces for different people. We cannot rush the process. What we can do is to recognise our powerlessness and helplessness, and bring it to the Lord in prayer. We can also arm ourselves with frequent reception of the Sacraments, which are real and tangible signs of Grace that draw us towards God, and also help us to overcome the obstacles that take us away from the Kingdom of God. Finally, to count on the Word of God and the Teachings of the Magisterium.
We are also accountable for one another, and instrumental as partners of healing. Unlike Cain, we need to say, “Yes, I am my brother’s keeper.” But please don’t be a brother (or sister) in the busybody, nosy, judgey, prejudicial, patronising way.
By the Grace of God,
Brian Bartholomew Tan
Cavins, J. (2022). Recognizing Core Wounds and How to Heal. Ascension Press. Retrieved January 29, 2022 from https://media.ascensionpress.com/podcast/recognizing-core-wounds-and-how-to-heal/
Pope John Paul II. (1979, October 29). Man’s Awareness of Being a Person. L’Osservatore Romano. (Weekly Edition in English)
Traditional Kyoto. (n.d.). Kintsugi – Art of Repair. Traditional Kyoto. Retrieved January 29, 2022 from https://traditionalkyoto.com/culture/kintsugi/