Kintsugi… beauty out of brokenness
On Sept 5, 2021 Pastor John’s message “Beauty out of Brokenness”, shared prior to our partaking in holy communion, reflected on the unique art form of kintsugi. Read on to hear how Jesus makes beauty out of our broken lives….
What is the meaning of kintsugi?
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — a metaphor for embracing your flaws and imperfections.
Is kintsugi real?
“Kintsugi is a traditional Japanese process of repairing ceramics with urushi lacquer (made from the sap of a tree) and gold powder,” says Nao Shaneyfelt, a kintsugi artist originally from Osaka, Japan. Kin = golden Tsugi= Joinery
KINTSUGI AND THE ART OF REPAIR: life is what makes us Andrea Mantovani Sep 19, 2019
The 400+ year old Japanese art of kintsugi (golden repair) or kintsukuroi (golden joinery) is a pottery repair method that honors the artifact’s unique history by emphasizing, not hiding, the break.
According to art historians, kintsugi came about accidentally (well, it does fit). When the 15th-century shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke his favorite tea bowl, he sent it to China for repairs and was disappointed that it came back stapled together. The metal pins were unsightly, so local craftsmen came up with a solution — they filled the crack with a golden lacquer, making the bowl more unique and valuable. This repair elevated the fallen bowl back to its place as shogun’s favorite and prompted a whole new art form.
An art form born from mottainai — the feeling of regret when something is wasted — and “mushin,” the need to accept change: the cracks are seamed with lacquer resin and powdered gold, silver, or platinum, and often reference natural forms like waterfalls, rivers, or landscapes. This method transforms the artifact into something new, making it more rare, beautiful, and storied than the original.
Why is this art also important for us as humans?
You probably don’t expect other people to be perfect. You may in fact appreciate when people expose their vulnerabilities, show old wounds or admit mistakes. It’s evidence that we’re all fallible, that we heal and grow, that we survive blows to the ego or to our reputations or health and can live to tell the tale. Exposing vulnerabilities, by admitting errors, creates intimacy and trust in relationships, and fosters mutual understanding.
Still, though we’re often relieved when others are truthful, we’re afraid to expose ourselves. We see other people’s honesty about their flaws as positive, but we consider admitting our own failures much more problematic.
This happens because we understand other people’s experiences abstractly, but see our own very concretely. We feel the things that happen to us intimately and physically. On the other hand, what happens to others functions more like an instructive tale, because the pain of failure isn’t our own and the distance gives us perspective. We all understand in theory that bad things can happen. But we also feel really bad when they happen to us, and condemn ourselves.
Vulnerability is courage in you but inadequacy in me: that’s completely wrong. Like the kintsugi crafters who repaired the shogun’s bowl with gold long ago, imperfections are gifts to be worked with, not shames to be hidden.
Turn the ordinary into extraordinary
It’s absurd to be embarrassed about missteps and failures in our lives because they happen to everyone, and no experience is wasted.
Everything you do — good, beautiful, bad, ugly — can serve as a (life) lesson, even if it’s one you would never want to repeat again. Actually, mistakes can be the most important and effective experiences of all. And can be shared truthfully with those in need and that would deserve to learn that wisdom.
Things may fall apart. That’s life. But if you’re wise, you can use every scrap, patch yourself up, and keep going. That’s the essence of resourcefulness, resilience, persistence. It’s mottainai. Some philosophers would argue it actually is the meaning of life.
When we expect everything and everyone to be perfect, including ourselves, we not only discount much of what is beautiful, but we create a cruel world where resources are wasted, people’s positive qualities are overlooked in favor of their flaws, and our standards become impossibly limiting, restrictive, and unhealthy.
The kintsugi approach instead makes the most of what already is, highlights the beauty of what we do have, flaws and all, rather than leaving us eternally grasping for more, different, other, better.
In other words, the experiences you have, and the person you already are, suffice. You may occasionally chip and break and need repairs. And that’s fine. But reality is the best and most abundant material on the planet, available to anyone, comes for free, and we can all use what we already have — including our flaws — to be even more beautiful.
After all, our cracks are what give us character. And let us shine!
By Dr. Daniel Passini February 12th, 2018
Sometimes life hits us, and it hits us hard. So hard in fact that it breaks us: divorce, the loss of a job, the death of a child, cancer, bankruptcy, abuse, neglect, rejection. These and countless others can take a man or woman, no matter how strong they are, and shatter them on the floor like a vase. Brokenness is not beyond anyone. The right circumstances, at the wrong time can break the best of us, but the Japanese art of Kintsugi shows us there is beauty and value in brokenness.
What Is Kintsugi?
I had learned about this art form a while ago, but was recently reminded of it in a school discussion, and then I reread about it when Dr. David McDonald mentioned it in his book Then. Now. Next. (Which, btw, I think every Jesus follower should read concerning the church of the future.)
The word Kintsugi is actually the combination of two words:
Kin (Golden) tsugi (Joinery)
I will save you the Google search and share what Wiki says about Kintsugi:
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. It is believed to have appeared around the 15th century. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.
Two Extremes Of Brokenness
From what I have encountered over the years in ministry and coaching is that many people tend to live in one of two extremes. They are the:
- People who wallow in their brokenness, and never find healing for their pain.
- People who completely ignore or hide their brokenness, until it eventually destroys them from the inside out.
For too long we have glamorized the gouges and brokenness of our lives. We have fetishized our festering wounds. “Oh, woe is me! Look how terrible my life is! Life has broken me.” We tend to promote our damaged and baggage-filled lives like it’s a badge of honor.
We have to stop trying to carry around the broken pieces of our lives, and then still expect to have whole relationships with family, friends, and our communities.
Brokenness begets brokenness.
On the opposite end of the spectrum you have to stop trying to put on the tough façade, like you have it all together. The truth is many of you are shattered on the inside, and have never faced the pain of those broken pieces because you are too scared of being cut again.
In either case you have not allowed your wounds to heal, rather you are trying function with a gaping wound, and fractional pieces of who you are called to be.
Kintsugi is a perfect presentation of the power of the gospel, and a masterful metaphor for Jesus. The gospel is not just “the good news.” The original intent of the word gospel was “the rewards of the good news.”
Kintsugi shows us the power of creation, death, and resurrection in Christ. We were created as God‘s workmanship, and we were all broken because of sin; sin of our own, and sins committed against us.
We are all broken because of pain, abuse, addiction, rejection, father wounds, death, or any plethora of afflictions. We have all been dropped and shattered in some way in life. For some the shards of the crushed vessel are bigger than others, but the brokenness is all the same.
But thanks be to God that Jesus Christ is the gold that binds us back together. He makes us whole. He restores us. Because of his life, death, and resurrection, our life, death (brokenness), and resurrection gives us the ability to tell His story better.
A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish. – Isaiah 42:3
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3
… provide for those who grieve…beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. – Isaiah 61:3
Yes, brokenness happens, but instead of being thrown away and tossed aside as is common in Western society, our lives are even more beautiful for having been broken.
You have to allow Jesus to be the artist and the gold; to both heal you and make you whole. You have to allow Jesus to bind up the brokenness of your life, to heal the wounds, to make scars of gold.
A scar represents a healed wound, a trauma that has been treated. They say, “chicks dig scars,” and “every scar has a story.” What they’re really saying is that people dig stories.
You don’t have to walk around with the broken pieces of your life, nor do you have to sweep them under the rug in shame or stoicism.
In Christ, you can have scars, instead of open wounds; and he doesn’t just bind you up. He binds you together with the gold that is His life.
Until we choose to allow Christ to heal the wound, our brokenness will be of no use.
A broken bowl holds nothing, but a kintsugi vessel has value and beauty.
And because of who Christ is, and because of His power in our lives, we get to tell a greater story. The philosophy of Kintsugi tells shows us there is beauty in brokenness, and imperfections are not something to hide, but to put on display when they have been healed by something more valuable than themselves.
Because of what we have gone through, because of what we have endured, because of brokenness, pain, and being dropped and shattered in life we are now restored because of the gold that is Jesus Christ. We get to tell the story of Jesus in a way that is compelling and convincing, because we were broken and He has restored us. Just because you’ve been broken, doesn’t mean you’re worthless. There is artistry to be unveiled in the fragments and ashes.
When people ask about a scar we can tell them the story of how God redeemed the brokenness. We can show the beauty of his redemptive and restorative power from those shattered parts of our lives.
We can point people to a healer, and an artist.
We can point them to Kinstugi Jesus.