The Art of Japanese Kintsugi

We’ve all broken dishes at one time or another.  Leslie and I are avid collectors of family artifacts and have inherited hundreds of pieces of china and other breakable mementos.  Because we display these rare treasures rather than store them, some have been broken.  Because of their sentimental worth we try to fix these pieces.  In some cases we simply put them in a box with other broken wears in hopes that we can do a mosaic with them later.

You see, even broken heirlooms are of high value to me.  Yet, until today I hadn’t considered the deep value of the actual fracture.  I have long preferred fixing these items in such a way that their brokenness is masked, which is how so many of us treat our own personal struggles, weaknesses and failures.  We go to counseling or support groups to “fix” ourselves and then try to pretend nothing ever happened.  Like that’s even possible.

Sadly, the people group with whom I most associate, Christians, are among the purveyors of this type of “get fixed and quietly move on” lifestyle.  It’s just not popular in “the Church” to highlight weakness, which is perplexing seeing that one of the most popular scriptures to quote in times of trial is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NAS):

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

I have spent the better part of 20 years challenging this secretive mindset in the Christian world, encouraging people to embrace their challenges, surrender them to Christ and use their weaknesses to highlight God’s amazing power and grace.  Hiding His light under a bushel, keeping our testimonies to ourselves, benefits no one.  I am thankful that I chose to rebel against the advice I received from well meaning friends and family members 18 years ago and instead chose to share my story anywhere and everywhere I could, invited or not.

For me, exposing the depths of my story, good and bad, has been like the ancient Japanese remedy for broken pottery and china called kintsugi.  Kintsugi, according to Wikipedia, is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a lacquer resin sprinkled with powdered gold. Kintsugi may have originated when shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs in the late 15th century. When it was returned repaired with ugly metal staples, it may have prompted Japanese craftsmen to look for a more aesthetic means of repair. Collectors became so enamored with the new art that some were accused of deliberately smashing valuable pottery so it could be repaired with the gold seams of kintsugi.

I confess, the thought of highlighting the cracks of my grandmother’s broken dishes gives me great pause, while highlighting my own flaws is deeply thrilling.  While every failure I’ve endured has left a scar, seen or not, it also comes with a story of God’s grace and power to make new.  Deeper still, it allows me to talk about the fact that for those of us who know Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, He has given us a completely new heart without the cracks of the past, no glue or gold holding it together, just completely, irrevocably new.

For those of you who know Jesus, I encourage you to come out of the proverbial closet with your messy stories.  Share them as you would a beautiful mosaic that makes you you and God, well, God.  Point to the events where you have been shattered. Reveal your human scars.  Showcase your new heart. Celebrate God’s grace.

If you don’t know Jesus Christ, consider this: He takes anyone in.  The more broken you are, the more amazing His gift of a new heart is.  He’s not looking for perfection, He knows it’s unattainable—hence the need for His birth, death and resurrection.

Wondering if you’re disqualified?  Impossible this side of death.  Trust Him; it will change everything.


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