Have you ever broken a precious piece of china, or a favourite ornament? Perhaps you were washing it and it slipped out of your wet hands. Or maybe your grandchildren were being a wee bit more rambunctious than usual. Whatever the cause, there is nothing quite that feeling in the pit of your stomach as you watch your prized possession smash into several pieces as it hits the hard ground. What do you do? Well, you can either cut your losses and scoop the broken pieces up and throw them out. Or, you can make an attempt to glue the shattered pieces back together in an attempt to hide its brokenness. Neither option is very satisfactory, and especially if the item really was irreplaceable.
Sometimes, in life, we can also feel like a broken piece of precious pottery. We all experience times of brokenness in our lives, but it is what we do with our brokenness that is key. We usually do one of two things. We either attempt to discard the broken pieces pretending that they never existed. Or, we try to fix the brokenness ourselves, hoping that no-one will notice. However, I believe there is a third way…a better way to deal with our brokenness. The Apostle Paul knew a great deal of brokenness in his own life. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul reveals something of his own brokenness when he writes, ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.’ I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to believe that as we read Paul’s words we cannot identify with at least one of those experiences of brokenness. We’ve all been shattered in pieces on the hard ground of life. But, if you read Paul’s words in context, you discover that he is not writing from a position of despair, but of hope. For Paul, it is in the brokenness that the light of Christ…what Paul describes as treasure in clay jars…is able to shine forth.
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.’ I don’t know if Hemingway was a Christian, but his words certainly capture something of the essence of our faith.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this, that rather than attempt to discard or disguise our brokenness, we should actually embrace it and allow the light of Christ to shine through our brokenness. I came across something recently which illustrated this idea perfectly for me. Have you heard of Kintsugi? It is a Japanese word, and it translates as golden joinery. 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, and to incorporate them into a design often more beautiful than the original. The idea behind the art is to value the brokenness and repair as part of the objects history, rather than seeing it as something to disguise. This is in stark contrast to our Western philosophy which strives for perfection and looks to hide brokenness. The art of Kintsugi acknowledges the brokenness, and then pieces it back together into something beautiful.
As I read about this I began to realise that God is the master of Kintsugi. He knows our brokenness, yet He doesn’t reject or discard us. Where we see broken pieces, He sees potential and the possibility of creating something beautiful and new. He doesn’t want to hide our brokenness. Instead, 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 the evidence of healing and God’s power to restore.
So, 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.
Yours in Christ, Rev. Mike