Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. – Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)
If your place is like ours, you have a collection of broken things that have been mended—a favorite teapot or cup, a figurine, a ceramic trivet made by a grandchild.
Sometimes things can be mended so well you can barely see the cracks. Other times, slivers or shards are missing, so you display the piece with the mend toward the wall, or in a position where the scar cannot be seen.
But the Japanese art of kintsukuroi, instead of hiding the imperfections, actually highlights the brokenness.
Ceramic pieces are put together not with transparent adhesive but with a lacquer laced with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.
The effect is stunning. Your eyes are drawn to the golden cracks, and the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.
We all have been broken, haven’t we?
It’s called “life,” and our brokenness comes from different sources. Relationships, divorce, death, illness, accident, injury, and finances constitute some causes outside of ourselves.
But sometimes our brokenness comes from within: a hurt held onto for far too long, a physical imperfection—remember the man who overcame a disabling stutter? We see physical, emotional, and mental disabilities as flaws, as ugliness we must deal with or hide.
I’ve endured a hearing loss in both ears since I was an infant. I spent most of my life trying to hide it. I refused to wear a hearing aid until I had to if I wanted to get a college education. Even then I hid it with long hair. I learned to be a talker because if I was the one always talking, I didn’t have to struggle to hear what someone else was saying—and usually getting it wrong.
We also hide emotional and mental flaws. How long will someone suffer with a learning disability, such as dyslexia, before admitting they need help? Or bipolar disorder?
We do our best to conceal our imperfections, don’t we? If we can’t lick ’em, we hide ’em.
It doesn’t help that our society overstresses perfection. You can’t believe a photo anymore because it may have been photoshopped, air brushed, or otherwise tweaked so the subject appears flawless.
That’s what intrigues me about kintsukuroi—the artist doesn’t treat the brokenness as a flaw, but rather something to be made beautiful. The breakage isn’t concealed but brought out by the gold in the adhesive that bonds it back together. Brokenness is not something to be hidden, disguised, shoved under a rug and forgotten about, but rather something to be celebrated—a part of the object’s history.
You are what you are because you have been broken. You’re more beautiful because of your flaws. Your imperfections don’t damage you in such a way that you’re no longer useful.
On the contrary, because you’ve been broken, you can be even more useful.
How? By given your brokenness to the Master of Kintsukuroi and let Him transform what you consider ugly into the beauty He sees in you even now.
I’ve always thought of brokenness as something ugly, something to be shunned. But You don’t see it that way, do you, Father? As the Master Potter, You see beauty in my brokenness. Help me to see it that way, too—and embrace it. Amen.
Extra tea: Read and meditate on Jeremiah 18:1–4