Beauty in Brokenness

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 giving 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.

Read and meditate on Jeremiah 18:1–4.

 From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017, Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Remembering the Forgotten

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. –John 15:13 NLT

My late cousin Mary Ann’s career as a military nurse was the inspiration for my second novel, The Heart Remembers.

While my cousin served at a U.S. Navy hospital in Japan during the Vietnam War years, Vangie, the main character in my novel, was a fictional Army nurse who served during that conflict. Vietnam, specifically Pleiku, a town in the central highlands, was the setting for Part One of the book. However, the story wasn’t about the war. The war was but a backdrop of the romance between Vangie and Seth, a medical evacuation helicopter pilot.

Through my research, I pored through several books, including A Piece of My Heart by Keith Walker and Home Before Morning by Lynda Van Devanter, true stories of military nurses who’d served in Vietnam. I learned of the Army’s medical evacuation program in Rescue Under Fire: The Story of Dust Off in Vietnam by John Cook. I read about the bravery of Dust Off pilot Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Novosel that earned him a Medal of Honor. I learned of the Medcap program that provided medical care to the Qui Hoa Leper Hospital.

In short, I discovered there was good done in Vietnam that never saw press.

The Heart Remembers is a story that patriotic me wrote with passion and sorrow. I was a high school, then college, student during the Vietnam War years. I knew of the protests and the shameful treatment the Vietnam veterans received when they returned stateside. Not a hero’s welcome, that’s for sure.

I hoped my book would somewhat right the wrong by showing at least a glimpse of the courage, grit, and compassion shown in the midst of a very unpopular war. I’m not saying everything done in Vietnam was humane. But since when is war, at any time, humane? When is any war a “popular” war?

When the manuscript was finished, a local Vietnam veteran who was a former Navy Seal read it for accuracy. Then I sent it off. Several publishers seriously considered it. A senior acquisitions editor for a major Christian publishing house liked it so much she presented the manuscript to the committee that determines what gets published and what doesn’t. I had high hopes.

Until I received her email: “Our editorial board met yesterday, and I regret to say we won’t be moving ahead with The Heart Remembers. There was still a lot of concern about the salability of the Vietnam War even as a partial setting, and I’m sorry about that.”

“Even after all these years,” I told my husband, “these poor Vietnam vets are still getting slammed.”

So I published it myself as an independent author-publisher.

The Heart Remembers stands as my tribute to the brave men and women who served their country during a war that some folks still try to hide in the closet. Yet the Vietnam vets I know proudly fly Old Glory in their front yards.

Every Veteran’s Day, this heart remembers.

Thank you, Lord, for the selfless men and women who have served and are serving their country. Bless them and protect them. Smile upon them and be gracious to them. Show them Your favor and give them Your peace (Numbers 6:24–26 NLT). Amen.

Read and reflect on John 15:9–17.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

The Heart Remembers is available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions. Click here to get yours. Or you may contact me for an autographed copy at michelethuey@gmail.com.