Kintsugi: Beauty In The Broken Places

kintugiimage by Haragyato (CC BY-SA 4.0) 

Update: Since publishing this post, it has become by far the most viewed post on my blog.  During October 2017, I decided to expand on it by taking part in Write 31 Days to create a series “31 Days of Kintsugi.”  For an index of all the posts in that series, please click here.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”- Ernest Hemingway

I was interested this week to learn about the Japanese art of Kintsugi.  The word translates as “golden joinery” and it is a method of repairing broken ceramics with a lacquer mixed with gold, silver or platinum.   The aim is not to hide the repairs, but to make them a feature- to incorporate them into a design often more beautiful than the original.

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.

I think of the wedding I played at, for a couple who had been married previously, to one another.  In the time since their divorce, each of them had separately come to faith in Jesus and their broken relationship had gradually been restored. Now they were remarrying- and there was something about the history of brokenness that made the restoration especially beautiful.

I think of a friend who has a history of immense brokenness, including drug and alcohol addiction and time in prison.  There will always be scars, but I know few people who shine with the love of Jesus as much as he does or who have such a desire to reach out to others who are broken.  The depth of the brokenness he has known only goes to show that the love of Jesus can reach even deeper.

It doesn’t mean that every situation will be restored here on earth.  Some marriages don’t mend, some people never break free from addiction, there are times when the loss remains and the healing never comes.

But even then, as Eric Liddell puts it: “God is not helpless among the ruins.”  Although it may be very different from the original, God can still make something beautiful.

When Jesus rose from the dead, his scars remained but, while they were a reminder of pain and suffering, they were also a reminder that evil does not have the final word.  They were a testimony to God’s awesome power.  St Thomas Aquinas writes, “He kept His scars not from inability to heal them, but to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.”  

And I think there is a lot of truth in the statement that “afterward many are strong in the broken places.”  The places where we have known brokenness and experienced God’s healing are the places where we have empathy and compassion for others who are broken. They are the places where we have a story to tell and where we have credibility to minister to others.  They are the places where we can speak hope and shine light into the darkness.

So maybe we should learn from the art of Kintsugi.  Maybe we should accept our brokenness and stop trying to hide it, but instead hand the pieces to God and see what he can do and what beauty he can create in us.

I discovered the concept of Kintsugi in “Mosaic of Grace” by James Prescott, which will be released on 13th February.  It is always a bit of a risk to agree to be on a launch team for a book when you know very little about the author or his writing.  However, having read the first few chapters, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book, which speaks powerfully 0f God’s grace in the broken places of life.  I’ll be sharing more soon, but it is one to look out for.

kintsugi

Embracing Every Day      Holly Barrett     purposefulfaith.com           

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42 thoughts on “Kintsugi: Beauty In The Broken Places

  1. I love this so much. I do believe that God allows some of our scars to show as a testimony of what once was, and how it reflects the beauty of His healing in our lives. I also love the song by Gungor. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  2. Such truth here, Lesley. What beautiful testimonies you share of restoration too. Only God! Thank you so much for this encouragement.

    It’s funny because only just last week the speaker at a conference I attended spoke about the power of scars and of Jesus’ visible wounds after the resurrection. When he shared that it encouraged me a lot, as it does in your piece here again. We all carry scars, don’t we? Humanity of brokenness, but held together in Christ.

    My friend Wendy told me about this Japanese technique a few months ago now and I too loved the picture it gives of what God does in our lives. So true though that ultimate healing is in heaven. My girls’ Bible ends with the Revelation prophecy of this wholeness and I recently read somewhere that if we view life through the lens of Revelations then we can also forgive one another much more readily because then like Jesus does, we see each other as whole, righteous and complete in Christ.

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    1. Thanks, Anna. I’m glad it encouraged you. I love when God brings up the same thing in several different places. Thanks for sharing your insights here. It is important to keep the end of the story in mind and the perfect restoration we will see in ourselves and others one day.

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    1. Thanks, Trudy. I’m glad you liked it. Thank you for your honesty about the broken places and the way you let God’s love shine through. It is beautiful and always encourages me. Love and hugs to you!

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  3. Yes, yes, yes to all this! In fact, this is the second time in less than a week that this concept has jumped out at me. ❤ Thanks for sharing! I might need to grab a copy of that book when it comes out!

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  4. It’s interesting that I heard of this art form just recently when another friend mentioned it in her blog post. There is something so captivating about displaying our brokenness for others to see. It also reaches into that deep place of vulnerability. However, my journey is one that God wants others to learn from and to do that I must be willing to share my story, all of it and not just the pieces that make me look good.

    Thank you for these words today. Beautifully written!

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    1. Thanks, Mary. It is definitely not always easy to be open about our brokenness and it does feel vulnerable, but it is amazing to think how God can use it to help others when we do.

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  5. Oh I LOVE this. I never have heard of that process of repair and will be using this in our ministry to the broken as well as thank God for his daily restoration in my life. And, or course, love the song you chose for this. Thank you Lesley.

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  6. Oh gosh, this is such a beautiful encouragement, Lesley! I love this concept, and the visual of how He is able to repair and restore in such a way that it becomes a beautiful reminder of what He has done, and where He’s brought us from! Love it, love it!!!! So glad we got to connect this week! xxoo

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  7. Hi Lesley! I really liked the image you have here of the pot with the golden lines. It really does look pretty, and I would have never guessed that it was broken in the first place. Such a good metaphor for what God can do for us when we are broken. No one wants to break, or have bad experiences, but when God is involved anything is possible.
    Sounds like a good book too,
    Ceil

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    1. Thanks, Ceil. So true that we don’t want or ask for brokenness but all of us find it in one way or another. It is so encouraging to remember that God can still do something beautiful with it.

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  8. Beautiful, Lesley. Have you ever heard that song, “If we’re honest,” by Francesca Battistelli? There’s a sweet line in it that says, “Bring your brokenness and I’ll bring mine.” Life is so much sweeter when we meet each other in the middle of our “real.” — Lovely post, Lesley, thanks for sharing–and thanks for linking up with #ChasingCommunity today! ((hug))

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  9. Lesley, this is such a beautiful, powerful post. The first time I heard about kintsugi, I loved the image it gives: the brokenness being acknowledged and made beautiful. Your words today resonate with my own journey of healing.

    And this: The places where we have known brokenness and experienced God’s healing are the places where we have empathy and compassion for others who are broken.”

    I am so blessed by God’s willingness to use us through our brokenness in the lives of others. He’s so amazing that way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jeanne. Yes, it’s a beautiful image of God’s work in our lives, and I love that he can work good even in painful experiences by allowing us to minister to others.

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