Friday, October 31, 2014

Kintsugi for the Heart!

It was a September Saturday afternoon, and I was happy to be started on Christmas gifts.  I usually made the gifts we gave, and this year was no exception. My trunk was filled with greenware – ceramic slip that had come out of the molds but still needed to be cleaned, then fired to bisque, painted, and sealed.  As I remember there were 8 sets of nativity figures.  I planned to start with the central figures the first year, the shepherds and their sheep and the angels the next year, and the wise men and camels the third year. 

I decided to run over to a nearby town to a craft show that afternoon.  On the way a teenager high on some substance struck my brand new Chevy Caprice in the rear literally pleating the car. Well, all that greenware didn’t fare too well! It was broken and crumbled into many, many pieces and dust. I didn’t know it right away, but I had a broken neck. It’s strange how things take on significance: just that week I had heard someone say on the radio that life breaks us all and afterward some of us are stronger in the places that were broken. I remembered those words that fall Saturday afternoon. I had no idea how often I would ponder them over the next weeks and months.

Brokenness is a HUGE subject worthy of great contemplation!  The truth is that all of us are broken and in desperate need of restoration. That’s why Jesus came - to make that restoration process possible!

In part of my life I teach Latin. Roman history is part of teaching Latin. In almost any marketplace in any city in the Roman Empire potters displayed their wares. They developed a clever trick to hide flawed workmanship or damage. When a pot had a flaw or a crack, they would take wax and smooth it over the flaws or press it tightly into the cracks. The objective was to deceive the customer into buying a defective product thinking it was true and solid. Can you imagine what happened to those pots when they were filled with water or wine especially on a hot day? They would spring leaks. This practice gave potters a bad name in general. Most of these potter merchants were travelers. By the time their deceit was discovered, they were far down the road, swallowed up by the next city or town or wherever. There was no complaint department.  As a result sales slumped, profits were threatened, honest artists were shamed by the actions of others.

Pottery artists with integrity were sick and tired of being lumped together with these scoundrels. So, they began to sign their names on the bottom of all their new pieces along with this stamp: SINE CERA (without wax). We actually get our English word sincere from this practice. If the pottery had integrity, was whole and not damaged, then it was also sine cera (without wax). The pottery not stamped sine cera appeared to be undamaged because of the wax. Surprise, surprise when that pot was used for a hot liquid!

 One of my best friends is Japanese. She tells me about the style of Japanese art called Kintsugi (beautifully broken). It is broken - intentionally! Everyone knows it is broken. In fact, the imperfections are flaunted! The pottery has been deliberately broken and then repaired with seams of pure gold or silver. The amazing creations that result unquestionably bring beauty from brokenness! Perfection is over-rated. Real beauty comes from brokenness!

Sadly we don’t value brokenness in our culture. We shy from it! We avert our eyes. Worse, we avert our hearts! We think and live, at least most of us do, as though anything or anyone damaged, smashed, disabled is of little or no value. That is as much a lie as the non-sine cera pots of ancient times!

God is in the full-time business of fixing brokenness. He could make brokenness as though it never happened, but He doesn’t. Instead He chooses to display the beauty of brokenness! The prophet Malachi wrote in 3:2-3: …He will be like a refiner’s fire … He will sit as a refiner and purifier of siver…         

John Piper of Desiring God Ministries observes, He is a refiner's fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner's fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner's fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner's fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner's fire. (He Is Like a Refiner's Fire, November 29, 1987)

 I am blessed to be broken! I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who know and understand brokenness, and who constantly challenge my heart to be more than even sine cera but rather to live in the reality of Kintsugi!

*The black pot is credited to Lakeside Pottery -


GranMarty said...

Great post, my friend. Painfully beautiful story.

Ann said...

Yes, you know - my sweet friend - as you walked through a LOT of that story with me! Thank you from the bottom of my Kintsugi heart!