Midweek Musing 9-20-2023 - Kintsugi
One of the benefits of not always understanding how to operate the remote controls for the television is that I sometimes come across a show that I end up watching that I might not have or, to be honest, definitely would not have watched.
In this case, it was a show about Japanese artwork. (I know you all find it, and to believe that documentaries on Japanese artwork is not my go-to TV show.)
One particular segment that caught my attention was a segment on a technique known as “kintsugi” in Japanese culture. This process involves taking broken, cracked, or chipped pottery and lovingly repairing them by filling them with a precious lacquer.
Many of us have well-loved family heirlooms, like a ceramic serving bowl or a porcelain teacup, that has been passed down through generations. Over time, some of these pieces have inevitably endured their fair share of accidents and mishaps. Pieces in these collections we have have been damaged, with visible imperfections marring their once-pristine surface. We hold onto these as long as we can because each chip and crack tells a story of family gatherings, cherished moments, and the passage of time. Despite its imperfections, the bowl, serving platter, or teacup becomes a symbol of enduring love and the memories shared around them.
Sometimes, these breaks make these items seem to be broken and beyond repair. In many cases, these items, sometimes through tears, are sadly discarded.
In Japan, however, this story sometimes takes a turn when the owner decides not to discard it but instead continues to use it regularly. Over the years, the breaks, cracks, and chips are lovingly filled with gold, silver, or platinum lacquer. This mending process, “kintsugi,” doesn’t hide the imperfections but celebrates them by highlighting the repaired areas with gleaming gold or silver lines. Once considered broken, the item now shines with a unique and radiant beauty that tells a story of resilience and the art of embracing flaws.
In this simple story, the beauty found in the object’s brokenness lies not in its initial perfection but in its journey of continued use, repair, and the memories it holds. It serves as a reminder that even in our own lives, our imperfections and challenges can be sources of beauty and strength when we embrace them with love, care, and resilience.
This art form is a beautiful analogy for the Christian faith. While society seeks to convince individuals to become perfect or at least cover up their imperfections, Jesus lets us know that we are all welcome in our brokenness. Kintsugi celebrates the flaws and imperfections of the broken pottery, highlighting them with precious medals. Similarly, our Christian walk emphasizes the belief that humans are imperfect and in need of redemption, and through faith in Christ, their brokenness can be made beautiful.
In fact, Jesus declares at the beginning of his ministry in his first homily that this call to repair brokenness and be a repairer of the breach is his own when he quotes the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners.”
This passage assures us that God can bring healing and beauty to the brokenhearted and oppressed. The good news is by God’s grace and work, something beautiful can emerge from brokenness. This is the call which we, too, are called to all remember and live. And this is the joy that we must be sure to share because our broken world certainly needs to know that by God’s mercy, such hope abounds – even when life feels like a piece of shattered china.