At the moment I’m doing a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, which means that two days a week I work in the pastoral care team of a hospital, and another day I meet with a group of students for shared learning and reflection and so forth. One of the great blessings of this is that the group of students isn’t confined to Christians, so we have the chance for interfaith dialogue.
Yesterday we were talking together about the human experience of brokenness, and how this leads to feelings of failure and worthlessness and experiences of anxiety and depression. One of my fellow students is a Zen Buddhist monk, and after we had been talking for a while he told us about the Japanese art of kintsugi, in which a broken piece of pottery is glued back together, and the cracks not hidden, but highlighted with gold so that they become the aesthetic focus for the restored piece. He said that this artwork reflects the Buddhist belief that beauty comes out of suffering.
Christians and Buddhists don’t understand suffering in the same way, I think, but what he said reminded me of a couple of verses from Paul’s letters:
“For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”
And “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
It seems to me that kintsugi is a fitting image for this; the broken person restored in such a way that there is light and glory reflected in our lives, conformed to the image of the precious Son; just like the gold filling in the cracks of a piece of pottery and making it even more beautiful than before. I shrink back, myself, from imagining that my brokenness might be seen by others; I might be humiliated, ashamed. But perhaps, if I trust God, I can let him fill the cracks and shed light on them, so that my life could more faithfully glorify Him. Perhaps reminding myself of the beauty which can come from redeemed brokenness might give me the courage and hope to try.