Kintsugi is a Japanese art form in which the artist repairs broken pottery with a mixture of powdered gold. The philosophy behind it is that the brokenness of the piece is not something to hide, but instead something to highlight, and that in fact, makes the pottery far more beautiful and valuable than it was in its original form.
In this country, we’re drawn to ideals of beauty, strength, and what is valuable or worthy from the surrounding culture–the mores of which are highly (sometimes it seems “totally”) market driven. Most of us would like to think we’re above the influence of things like the media–but we’re not. As a marketer for almost 20 years, I’ve seen time and again how simple it can be for the media to make something seem far better–or at least something other–than it actually is, just by using clever words and imagery.
Our culture’s pervasive ideas about what’s worthy, whole, acceptable, and admirable are perceptions the media and popular society have deeply imprinted into our minds since childhood. They come at us–and get in us–through our music, television shows and commercials, movies, books, magazines, newspapers, the internet, and endless signage–literally everywhere, every day.
And if we’re honest, we all–myself included–are drawn to those very things. They’re powerful and seductive and unless we consciously stop and think about it, and challenge the status quo within our own minds–we can miss so many things around us that are truly strong, beautiful, and valuable–including others and even ourselves.
Most of us don’t like to associate the word “broken” with ourselves when we’re struggling or hurting. And most of the time, we’re not at all sure what to do when someone we care about is in a state of brokenness, either. As a whole, we’ve become really uncomfortable with this part of being human, and being faced with not having all the answers in ourselves–but God never expected that from us.
The irony we forget, is that the only way to get stronger is to travel honestly through that brokenness first. It works much the same way as building physical strength–first the muscle breaks down, it’s painful, and then it becomes stronger. When we take the things within us that are less than perfect, that maybe feel weak or broken, before God, He “…heals [our] broken hearts and binds up [our] wounds,” (Psalm 147:3), and His “…power is made perfect in our weakness,” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God defines what’s beautiful, strong, and worthwhile much differently than we do. And the way we do–at least for the most part–has nothing to do with the reality of being human in this fallen world. But when we take the time, reflection, and energy to allow His definitions to become ours, we stop missing out on the real thing. We stop thinking things should be easy or without struggle. And we stop failing to recognize the depth of beauty, strength, and value in our own brokenness when we give it to God–the ultimate artist. Then we find His strength, beauty, and power showing up in our own lives, and begin to recognize it in those around us–in ways we didn’t notice before. Ways we couldn’t possibly notice while we were busy thinking we had to have all those things figured out on our own.
It’s interesting how often God refers to himself as the potter in His Word. Like the Kintsugi potter, God takes our brokenness–those things inside and outside of us that don’t meet the world’s standard of beauty, strength, and value–those things we like to keep secret because we’re afraid we won’t measure up–and fills our cracks with His beautiful shining Spirit. The result is far more beautiful and fortified with strength, beauty, and value than before.
God doesn’t hide our brokenness, either. Instead He highlights it all with something far more beautiful than gold. Because those are the very things by which He strengthens us. Because we’re stronger and no longer hiding, His beauty shines through our imperfection, and we begin to really get how incredibly valuable we are to Him.
The next time you wonder if you’re too far gone, or broken beyond repair, remember He can use it to grow you if you let Him. Lean into Him and trust His promises are for you–because they are. His Spirit shines through our lives when we invite Him in to heal our broken parts–not when we try to hide them or pretend they’re not there. When we don’t give up, and trust Him to work in our weakness, He shows up every time. And when He does, He equips and invites us to participate in the healing and restoration of broken things we encounter throughout our lives. Suddenly, something once broken becomes extraordinary, and gloriously beautiful through the process.
Then, just as He promises in Isaiah 58:8 “…your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”
How awesome is that?
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