The Japanese Art of Kintsugi

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God never throws away the broken pieces of our lives; He redeems all of them.

Not too long ago, I dropped one of my favorite coffee mugs and broke it into several pieces. I was quite frustrated because it happened to be a sentimental heirloom to me—one that I purchased on our honeymoon twenty years ago. I swept up the shards in frustration and tried to piece the cup back together. That disappointment led me to a discovery into the 500­year­old Japanese art of kintsugi.

In Japan, rather than tossing broken pieces of ceramics in the trash, craftsmen often practice the art of kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” which is a method of taking broken pieces and restoring them with a lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum.

The story of kintsugi is said to have begun in the 15th century when Japanese military commander Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke one of his beloved Chinese tea bowls and, disappointed with the shoddy repair job it was treated to, urged Japanese craftsmen to come up with a more pleasing method of repair. Thus the art of kintsugi was born. Collectors soon became so enamored with the new art that some were accused of deliberately smashing valuable pottery so it could be repaired with the gold seams of kintsugi.

As an art, kintsugi will make a mended vessel look more aesthetic and become more valued than it was before it was fractured. As a philosophy, kintsugi treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, something of a redemptive beauty, rather than something to disguise, cover up, or replace altogether. It has similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi­sabi, an aesthetic worldview that sees beauty in the flawed, the damaged, or the imperfect. The idea behind the technique of kintsugi is to recognize the entire history of the object, with all of its cracks and flaws, and to visibly incorporate the repaired fissures into the new piece. It beautifies the breakage and treats it as an important part of the object’s history, thus valuing the fractures instead of disguising them or glossing over them. The process typically results in something far more beautiful and elegant than the original.

To throw the broken pot away is to destroy its unique story. To repair it the kintsugi way is to continue its tale of adventure, triumph, and redemptive beauty.

twitter-64The brokenness of our past is an integral part of our unique story and God’s gloriously redemptive beauty. Tweet this

The world is full of people with broken hearts, broken spirits, and broken relationships. We see damaged goods all around us. And we see it in ourselves when we are courageous enough to go there.

In fear of rejection, we’d rather cover up the damaged parts of our lives and work harder at putting our best pieces out front for others to see. We feel ashamed of our weaknesses and fear that if people really knew us they wouldn’t have anything to do with us. This is because we are keenly aware that we live in a culture that rejects broken things too easily rather than one that embraces the value of damaged goods.

Think about some of the cracks and fractures in the lives of the men and women God used throughout the Bible: Moses had a speech problem. Jonah was self-absorbed. David was an adulterer and a murderer. Samson was a womanizer. Rahab was a prostitute. The Samaritan woman had a whole string of divorces. Zacchaeus had engaged in extortion. Peter was hotheaded, impulsive, and temperamental. Naomi was a bitter widow. Elijah was suicidal. Leah wasn’t attractive enough. Joseph was abused and abandoned. Jacob was a liar and a schemer. Martha worried about everything. Timothy had an ulcer and Noah got drunk.

What’s significant is that none of these things defined these people. What defined them was their relationship with God. But what I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t omit their weaknesses and their failures when it describes their victories. Just like in the art of kintsugi, the broken pieces weren’t something to be thrown out, they were a part of the whole redemptive story—one that God gracefully wrote despite their flawed personalities, their broken humanity, and their obvious weaknesses.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul was struggling with an antagonizing “thorn” in his life. We’re not sure exactly what it was but we do know that it bothered him so much that he pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away. But the only response he got was: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That response caused Paul to become good with the weaknesses in his life because he realized that Christ would be glorified in all of them. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV)

There is truly a beauty waiting to be discovered when we begin to realize that God is using everything in our lives, including our brokenness, our pain, our failures, our weaknesses, our fractured relationships, our shattered dreams, our disappointments, and our cracked personalities, to bring about a very, very, beautifully redemptive story. He assuredly is making all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

Remember that as you take time to abide in Him today.

God never throws away the broken pieces of our lives; He redeems all of them.

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