Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with precious metals such as gold, silver, or platinum. The result is a re-making of old, broken pottery into a new piece. A piece once again useful and arguably more valuable than before. The practice is related to the Japanese philosophy known as wabi-sabi which looks for beauty in the flawed.
As a child of God who feels her age more and more each day, I am enamored by the metaphor of Kintsugi. I love the idea of taking something old and not only making it new again, but in the process making it even better than before.
Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. Psalms 31: 9-10
I feel older by the
day, hour minute. In the morning I carefully roll out of bed and limp until my legs
seem to remember how to walk. Like a five-year-old just starting school
routines I have to prepare my school bag the night before so I don’t forget
important things like lessons, thumb drives, and lunch. During the day, I sit horribly
close to the computer and squint while reading. Bedtime seems to always require
some sort of anti-inflammatory or analgesic medication in order to bring on the
respite of sleep. I even have broken bones fixed not with gold, but titanium steel.
And let’s not even talk about my new fear of falling again. My lifeline necklace is just around the corner.
Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends – those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. Psalm 31:11-12
I am not sure what made the Psalmist's friends flee from him, but I suspect my tendency to repeat favorite stories as if no one has heard them before contributes to the look I see in the eyes of my friends when I approach.
We are broken pottery are we not? We have wear and tear. We have experienced grief and tears. We participate in our own breaking through our selfish desires, our lack of trust, or sinful nature.
We are broken.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins. Isaiah 64:6-7
Even in our brokenness we strive to be useful. Much as Job used shards of pottery to scrap at his sores, we hope that in our sin we can still do good. But as these words from Isaiah indicate – even our righteous acts, are good deeds, our attempts to be useful, are like filthy rags.
We are useless.
But, that is not the end of our story.
Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64: 8
God is our potter. He does not dismiss our brokenness as un-fixable or unusable. He does not toss us onto the garbage heap to be buried in the landfill. Because He knows us He looks at our brokenness and sees potential. We belong to Him. He is our creator. And He is our re-creator. He scoops up the shards of our broken life and applies the precious metal of forgiveness and grace.
He makes us new again. . . and again, and again, and again.
We are precious and beautiful and valuable through the work of God.