We’ve all had the heart-breaking experience of watching a plate slip from our hands and shatter into a thousand pieces, leaving us desperately trying to find each piece, and then wondering how we will ever put it back together again.
As a kid I remember breaking my mum’s favourite serving plate.
It was a blue and white porcelain dish – a dish at the time I could barely hold due to its weight and size. At any family kaikai, it would sit centre stage, holding an array of Cook Islands delights; either a steaming plate of akari laden banana poke or in the 70s her famous lamb fricassee.
But here I was, holding the many pieces of this broken dish, reduced to a million tiny pieces and its usefulness shattered by my carelessness.
And now I was left with the ominous task of telling my mum that I had broken her favourite dish and instead of it being the centre piece of our kitchen table, it would find its way to the rubbish bin, discarded and no longer of any use.
Sitting there on our orange and white lino floor, I desperately wanted to repair it, well before my mother found out anyway.
Though we did not have the glue or opportunity, in Japan this broken serving plate would have taken on a whole new life because of the art form they call Kintsugi – or the golden joinery.
According to legend, when 15th-century shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke his favourite Chinese tea bowl and sent it back to China to be repaired, the bowl was returned, fixed, but held together by ugly metal staples.
The ugly repair spurred the Japanese craftsman to find a more beautiful solution to fix his broken bowl and in this he created more than a technique to fix broken ceramics – Kintsugi was a belief that true beauty and service is found in imperfection.
Kintsugi involved the mending of shattered ceramics together with a powdered gold.
The central philosophy of Kintsugi is that an object is made more beautiful by its history.
When it is broken through time and usage, it accumulates a story, finding beauty in that which is imperfect and scarred by time.
Kintsugi arose as a way to not merely fix a broken object but to transform it.
In our lives, there is gold in our brokenness, gold in the broken parts of our lives and if we take the time, we can find the gold in others, if they know that brokenness is something we can celebrate and not something they need to feel shame for and hide.
Just this week, while catching up for coffee with a good friend, at one point she pointed to a scar – a scar that told a story of broken bones and her courage to mend those bones.
But more courageous were her stories of scars of broken dreams and promises, and of the gold that ran through the broken pottery of her life.
And yet even she could not see, at times, just how valuable her brokenness was, and why we need true friends, to help us see sometimes, what stares us in the mirror of our lives, and to celebrate that – not hide it – and to experience beauty through our deep and furrowed brokenness, not some distorted sense of perfection and always getting it right.
I personally believe that God is the master of Kintsugi.
He knows our brokenness, and yet because of his love for us, he does not reject us or discard us. In fact, where we see broken pieces, he sees potential and the possibility of creating something so beautiful and new.
And he repairs us in such a way that, while the cracks and scars are still visible to all, they are not something for us to feel ashamed of or hide, because they show the workmanship of the Master and the gold of his love and grace to us all.
Nonetheless, whatever you believe or is real for you, when you look for the gold in others, in and amongst the cracks and scars of their lives, you may well find the gold in your own life that you so desperately seek for yourself and the courage to honour the broken parts of your life and celebrate.