Art and repair merged in fifteenth-century Japan when a shogun sent a prized tea bowl back to China to be repaired. When it came back mended with ugly metal staples, the shogun was so displeased that craftspeople jumped at the chance to find a better way to repair it and other broken ceramics. Because Japanese art values the marks of use or wear on objects, damaged bowls or vases are not simply discarded. Instead, an object’s repair highlights its beauty and value.
So developed the ancient art of kintsugi, the Japanese word for “gold joinery,” a process of repairing ceramics with a lacquer mixed with precious metal, usually gold. The method caught on. Some artists were even accused of purposely breaking precious items so they could be repaired with kintsugi. Museums across the world feature these ancient items repaired with lines of gold. Beauty grows out of brokenness and makes the damage vanish. The life of the object continues.
There is a well known story about Kintsugi. A man was traveling to visit friends in Japan. While en route, some pots broke and he threw them in a bin.
When he departed he was given a gift by those he visited. He looked, and saw it was the bowls he had brought to give them, the shattered pieces put together to make something even more beautiful than the bowls they had been originally.
And the man who gave them to him said, “Now, these are even better than when you bought them”
It is said a vessel fixed by Kintsugi will be more beautiful, more precious, than before it was broken.” [http://sarahbessey.com]
The philosophy behind it is to value the brokenness and repair as part of the object’s history, rather than seeing it as something to disguise. In contrast to Western philosophy which strives for perfection and looks to hide brokenness, Kintsugi acknowledges the brokenness, and then pieces it back together into something beautiful.
It strikes me that God is the master of Kintsugi.
He knows our brokenness, yet he doesn’t reject us or discard us. Where we see a heap of broken pieces, he sees potential and the possibility of creating something beautiful and new.
He doesn’t want us to hide our brokenness. He wants to heal us in such a way that, while the cracks and scars are still visible, they are not something ugly or shameful. They are part of the beauty.
God takes our broken pieces and puts them back together in a way that displays his glory, because it is in the cracks and in the scars that we see evidence of healing and God’s power to restore.
Is there something in your past that you believe is holding you back from God doing a marvelous work in your life? What if you were to give God all the broken pieces and let Him use those very things to pave a path to reach others with the glorious news of Jesus Christ?
Each of us, with all of our triumphs and failures, joys and heartbreaks, scars and all, have been given an opportunity to make a difference in the world. Do not underestimate what God can do with a life solely surrendered to Him. Give God all the broken pieces for who knows if you are where you are today “for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)