Monday, June 24, 2019

Blessings from Brokenness

Hand-built and hand-painted ceramic bowl broken
during the firing process, repaired by Kintsugi.
Created by Ruthann Hurwitz, The Village Potter.
(photo from Wikipedia)
Have you heard of Kintsugi? Also known as Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair,” it’s a centuries-old Japanese art of restoring broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with precious metal, such as gold, silver or platinum. This process is founded in a philosophy that treats breakage and repair as part of the valued object’s history, rather than as something to be disguised.

Interesting, isn’t it? Rather than trying to conceal the breakage, or even discarding the damaged object, the broken areas are effectively celebrated by filling them in with gold or silver or platinum. Rather than looking at it and saying or thinking, “What a mess!” we can see how it has been cherished, even to the point of restoration along “fault lines.”

After learning about the Kintsugi tradition, I marveled at how similarly God handles our brokenness and flaws. Each one of us has had experiences that in one way or another have resulted in brokenness. Soldiers returning from war, as well as people who have experienced great trauma, may suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). But even those of us who haven’t encountered such extreme events know how it feels to be broken. 

Coming from dysfunctional families (which includes all of us, in one sense or another); divorce; betrayal; abuse; times of great failure; shattered dreams. The list could go on, but not one of us gets through this life intact and undamaged by life’s challenges and storms. Yet so often those become the times when God grabs our attention and does some of His best work.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible, Psalm 51:17, in which a beleaguered King David wrote with humility, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” We typically think of “sacrifice” in terms of giving up something, or perhaps making an extravagant material gift. But here it says the sacrifice the Lord values most is “a broken spirit.”

This theme occurs over and over in the Scriptures, examples of people whose pride – we might call it bravado, hubris or even “chutzpah” – has become shattered when circumstances spiraled out of their control. They come to the end of themselves, and in so doing discover they have finally arrived at the beginning of God. Many of God’s prophets acknowledged this truth. 

Samuel declared, Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, obedience is better than sacrifice, and attentiveness is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).The prophet Isaiah said, For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and humble of spirit, to restore the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).

The prophet Joel asserted, “So rend your hearts and not your garments, and return to the LORD your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in loving devotion” (Joel 2:13). Many other examples could be cited.

Our culture values self-sufficiency, the proverbial “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” approach. God doesn’t value that. Jesus emphasized it when He declared, “I am the vine, you are the branches…apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). And the apostle Paul acknowledged this when he said, “I can do everything through him (Jesus) who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

“Do it yourself” shouldn’t be part of a follower of Christ’s vocabulary. Rather, we should remember – from the moment we awaken each day to the moment we return to bed – that our secret to a successful life as His ambassadors is “do it through Jesus.”

As for the many times we’ve experienced brokenness, struggles and pain, remember God is always at work in applying His own version of the Kintsugi process, filling in the gaps and cracks with His truth and promises, “flawless, like silver refined in a furnace, like gold purified sevenfold” (Psalm 12:6).


Fortes, Sergio said...

Excelent text. It could be a good Monday Manna article. Think about!

Bob Tamasy said...

Muito obrigado, Sergio!