Have you ever broken something of value? Maybe you broke your favorite coffee mug, a bone in your body, a family heirloom, a garage window, an appliance in your home. Alternatively, maybe what was broken in your life looks more like a broken heart, broken relationship, broken life filled with shattered dreams. Broken things happen a lot in life.
I recently came across an ancient Japanese practice called Kintsugi.
Have you heard of Kintsugi?
Kintsugi means “golden joinery” or “to patch with gold.” The process is also related to the Japanese philosophy wabi-sabi.
Kintsugi is the custom of repairing broken things with liquid gold, silver or lacquer dusted with gold to bring together the pieces of the fractured pottery while at the same time enhancing its breaks. This process not only fixes the cracks but dramatically increases the value of the piece and usually results in something more beautiful than the original.
Did you catch that? The process of kintsugi not only fixes what was broken but dramatically increases the value of the piece and usually results in something more beautiful than the original. Let that sink in for a moment.
This process – doesn’t try to merely fix what was broken – rather the goal of Kintsugi is to make what was broken better than new – to make it more beautiful than before. Every Kintsugi restoration is different, unique, and has its own story to tell. The process is not quick – some restorations take weeks if not months to complete depending on the severity of the brokenness, but the result is worth the wait.
Have you ever needed God to do a little Kintsugi restoration in your life and with your heart? Do you get caught listening to the lies that swirl around and whisper to you in your weakest moments: you are broken and can never be healed; you will never be loved the way you are; no one will accept you; you aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough; you aren’t enough, period.
It is often at this moment that we lose our grip and everything comes crashing down rendering us feeling useless, forgotten, shamed, rejected, shattered and beyond repair.
I have some good news – you see much like during the process of Kintsugi where nothing is too broken that can’t be fixed and made whole, we are never too broken, too shattered, too hidden, too much of a misfit for repair, a beautiful restoration, and wholeness. This wholeness is not immediate perfection nor a peaceful, comfortable life. Our wholeness is a journey and a process that begins with our recognition that we are in desperate need of God to pick up the broken pieces of our life and do a little Kintsugi restoration.
It is important to understand that just because we recognize our need for God doesn’t mean that every situation in our lives will be restored here on earth. The reality is that some marriages never mend, some people never break free from their addictions, there are times when the loss remains, and the healing we so desire never comes.
However, I love what Eric Liddell, missionary and Olympic runner, said: “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God's plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. God's love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love.”
God is there and we can stand by the promise found in Deuteronomy 31:6, “The Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Although the end may be very different from the original, our Kintsugi Master is there picking up the pieces and rebuilding our lives, making something beautiful come out of our disaster.
Let’s go back to the process of Kintsugi for a moment. There are a few things that we can take away and apply to our lives.
First Kintsugi Takeaway – the master artist can only engage in Kintsugi’s transformational process if they focus on what is possible rather than on what is impossible.
How many times do we focus on all the aspects of our lives that are wrong, negative, broken, and hurting? Some days a lot, right? What if instead of focusing on the seemingly impossible task of putting the pieces of our lives back together, we focused on what God sees. God sees our possibility, rather than our limitation.
He focuses on what can and should be, not what was and what was missed.
How would your life be different if you shifted your focus from impossible to possible? What if you changed your focus to see the broken made whole – and all the possibility that wholeness can bring?
Remember, every Kintsugi restoration is different, unique and tells a story. What story can you tell?
The second Kintsugi takeaway: It takes a Kintsugi master a while to restore a broken piece. Each application of the liquid gold or lacquer takes between 3-7 days to cure, and there can be 5-8 applications of lacquer on each piece. Some Kintsugi masters spend weeks polishing the seam between lacquer applications causing the whole process to take months to finish.
When things are broken, they take time to be restored. When it comes to healing our emotional and spiritual health, it will take time. If we try and rush the things, we risk causing more damage or prolonging the process. As hard as it is, we need to turn our brokenness over to God and let God do what only God can do.
The final Kintsugi takeaway: The impact that Kintsugi has on others is as significant as the piece being restored.
Kintsugi artist Muneaki Shimode said, “The importance in Kintsugi is not the always the physical appearance, it is… the beauty and the importance [that] stays in the one who is looking at the dish.”
When we allow God to heal us – take our broken pieces and put them back together – a beautiful thing happens, and others are left in awe of what God can do.
I firmly believe when we surrender our brokenness to God and let him work in our lives, some amazing things will happen through us and our not so perfect lives. More importantly, I believe God will leave us more beautiful than ever before and with an incredible story to share.