Brokenness is hard. Throughout my life I’ve heard its virtues praised in many forums and I always have the sense that maybe we’ve all agreed to go along with this because we want it to be true more than we feel it to be true.
We’ve had some extremely rough patches in our home this past year — physically, financially, emotionally, holistically. There’s been a lot of brokenness this past year and I can’t say I’m sad to see 2010 go. I have been telling myself it can only get better from here, but that’s not exactly a chorus of optimism that makes a heart sing with joy.
I was sharing some of this brokenness with an old friend recently, not really looking to be comforted, more just wanting another person to go, “Wow, I’d feel pretty broken too.” But the great thing about this old friend, who is a more evolved soul than I am, is he doesn’t indulge in wallowing.
My friend responded with a story he had heard on the radio the night before about the Japanese tradition of repairing broken ceramic pieces with lacquer that has been mixed with gold powder. It’s called kintsugi, “to patch with gold.”
I have to say my first reaction was to roll my eyes. Seemed too easy. I’ve heard the idea of brokenness creating added strength where there was once a crack many times before.
But that was not my friend’s point at all.
The result of this unique repair is that the broken piece is more than restored, it is elevated to something more than it was before it was broken. With the inclusion of gold in the cracks, the piece is now actually both stronger and more valuable. The threads of gold don’t hide the brokenness, they highlight and transform it into something to be cherished. A simple bowl becomes a work of art, and the art is in the cracks.
To me, that was a whole new way of looking at the brokenness thing. It’s one thing to look at being broken as something we can turn into a positive by letting it teach us and make us stronger, it’s a whole separate idea to think of brokenness as something that adds value, that elevates the thing that gets broken to something more cherished than it was when it had no cracks at all.
Kinda makes me look forward to the next time I break a bowl while unloading the dishwasher.
It also helps me begin to look back on 2010 as something other than a year I endured that made me stronger.
I hope as the cracks begin to heal, I’ll see this past year as a time when my life was transformed by threads of gold.