Kintsugi: Finding God (Beauty) in the Broken Places
5 to 6 minute read
My mother likes to go into TJ Maxx and Marshalls and search the sale aisle at the very back of the store. She pretty much always comes away with at least one awesome find for under $10. Usually what she finds is chipped or cracked in some way but she brings it home, polishes it up just so and sets it somewhere in her house in a way that the chip or crack isn’t even noticeable. Something deemed less valuable by some, when positioned the right way becomes a shining little treasure in my mother’s house.
It’s admirable when I see how beautiful she can make a room with all her sale-price finds. The other day, I was looking at a chipped side table she bought. Everything on the table was set up just so. She positioned it so that the chip was facing the wall and not anyone’s direct line of view. I still noticed the chip because I knew it was there but it didn’t make the table any less functional or pretty.
My mind wandered to all the chipped, cracked, broken places along the course of my life. Unhealthy relationships. Getting fired. Depression. Eating disorder. Family drama. For a long time, I tried to mask it all with humor, huge accomplishments, big talk, and the “look” of someone who had it all together (whatever that is). I was convinced that if I positioned my life just so then no one would know that I was an on-sale item… If I turned my best side to face the world then no one would know that I was deeply, painfully flawed. I stunted for outsiders and every major social network for years. Like, 10. Long time, isn’t? I shared only the ups, never the downs. I suffered privately but “thrived” publicly. I was chipped and cracked all over looking for ways to cover it all up and look brand new.
A few years ago I came across a post on Tumblr that described an ancient Japanese art called kintsugi. The description was one of the most beautiful things I had read in awhile:
Kintsugi: the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with gold; where brokenness is celebrated not by itself, but for how the piece is sealed with gold.
With this technique brokenness is revered as an event memorialized through gold filling damaged places. Because it bears marks of having been restored and thus having a new life, the healed vessel is seen as more beautiful, valuable. Brokenness is an event embraced as part of the vessel’s origins and not a flaw; to be displayed with pride and not covered in shame.
It blew my mind. Brokenness being celebrated? Not being thrown away? Not being sold at less than half its original value? Brokenness being valued above its original perfect state?
I’d been so used to perfection or near-perfection being rewarded even in the places where it’s not supposed to exist. I sat in church services where people who had royally messed up their loves were treated like pariahs, myself included. I matriculated college watching students who just wanted a chance to be a leader get denied because they didn’t dress as nicely or weren't as charming as some of the others who were trotted out as shining stars. I often wondered what penance or level of perfection it would take to be seen as simply...worthy.
It wasn’t until I started really interacting with God that my eyes were opened to how much He actually values flaws and imperfections. There wasn’t a single person from the Bible days until now that God used who wasn’t messed up in some way. None of us have it all together. We’re all struggling in some way. We’re all broken in some way. The beauty is in my willingness to allow God to shine through my jacked up places. That’s the gold. The more I let God shine in my life through my mistakes, my not-so-shining moments, my flawed days, the more free I am and the more free I encourage others to become.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. - II Cor. 12:9
There is so much more that can be done in and through our lives when we stop trying to look the part and just allow God to use the whole of our stories. Nothing is wasted when He has full access to our lives. The great, the good, the bad, and the ugly. A tale of the worst mistake, the biggest crack in our lives can be exactly what is needed to keep someone from ending their life or walking out on their family. The imperfection we want to hide is exactly what is needed to keep our lives authentic, whole, and impactful. God shining through the imperfections, that kintsugi is value added.
After a few years of tug-of-war with God, and a wearied surrender, I started writing as transparently as I possibly could. I put myself out there. Trying to maintain a facade was killing me in ways literal and figurative. Something had to give and I knew it had to begin with me being honest. With God. With myself. With the world. I’m not perfect. My life is filled with terrible decisions and regrets. There are chips all over the place but the beauty is that surrendering it all to the Master Creator transforms it from sale-price item on the back shelf, to a gold-fortified treasure used to brighten any room in which I may find myself.