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From Broken to Golden

Posted: 6/28/19 at 2:30pm. Column by Ed Jordan.

This week I discovered an interesting art form which in Japanese is called “Kintsugi,” which has become a process of repairing broken porcelain with a particular lacquer laced with gold dust, or liquefied gold.

I went online to find out more about the process, and read a great article by Stefano Carnazzi entitled: “Kintsugi: The Art of Precious Scars.” 

According to Japanese tradition, the Kintsugi process began in the fifteenth century when the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent his broken favorite teacup to China to be repaired. The Chinese porcelain experts declared that the cup was unrepairable, and they returned the pieces.

But the Shogun did not want to lose his favorite cup, so he ordered Japanese craftsmen to repair it. Their solution was to use a strong glue resin called urushi, a lacquer which comes from the Rhus vernicflua plant and was a strong bonding agent used in making weaponry. They decided to use gold dust in the lacquer to make his broken teacup not just strong and useful again, but as pretty as jewelry.

The word kintsugi (金継ぎ), or kintsukuroi (金繕い), is a compound word from two Japanese words which literally mean golden (“kin”) and repair (“tsugi”)” (cf. Carnazzi).

God takes our brokenness and puts us back together so that we become a useful “whole” vessel.

Thus the Kintsugi process of using gold- or silver-laced urushi to repair broken porcelain became a new art form that repaired and enhanced damage with gold or silver. The cracked patterns are always totally unique, and using gold dust in the glue adds to the cup’s rareness and value. Rather than trying to ignore the breaks and scars, it highlights them as having been transformed into something beautiful.

This is a wonderful concept which conceptually in Christian theology predates the Japanese art form by more than 14 centuries, and in Judaism predates it by more than 2,000 years.

In Hebrew it is depicted in the word “shalom,” which is translated: “peace” or “wholeness.” The word picture I associate with this word is of God taking a broken vase and putting it back together so that it is useful again.

God takes our brokenness and puts us back together so that we become a useful “whole” vessel. While man participates in this process, true wholeness and restoration comes from God and is done by God’s hand.

Today the Hebrew word “shalom” is used as a greeting and departure blessing, requesting God’s peace (or wholeness) be upon the recipient. It is part of the core blessing Moses was to give to Aaron and his offspring, depicted in Numbers 6:26 (CSB): “May the Lord look with favor on you and give you peace.” 

This meaning of being blessed with God’s presence and peace becomes a part of the Christian’s life when you receive Jesus. Jesus promised his peace (wholeness and restoration) to those who are his followers, a peace that provides his power to preserve you, to restore your usefulness when broken, and to restore you to wholeness (John 14:27).

The apostle Paul really grasped the concept of God restoring our broken lives to wholeness and recreating us as his handiwork in the world. In Ephesians 2, Paul explains that we are not made new and whole through our own actions but that God has taken our sin-broken lives to a whole new life through our saving faith in Jesus Christ.

This transformation reaches a climax in Paul’s pronouncement in Ephesians 2:10 that you as a Christian are an artwork of God—a masterpiece of God. Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) states: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  

Each of us has sinned, and each of us has been broken or scarred by our sins or by the sins of others. Sin breaks people, systems, values, and hearts. Jesus believes that you and I are valuable. He picks us up, with all our cracks, dings, and broken pieces.

He cleans us up, and then he painstakingly puts us back together into a whole new masterpiece. He fills in our scars with gold, so that the things that were signs of our brokenness are transformed into testimonies of his beautiful restoring power and grace.

Have you placed your broken life into the hands of Jesus and asked him to restore you into a useful person, who can reveal the beautiful handiwork of God and his restoration power?

If not, just do it now. In prayer, give yourself to Jesus and ask him to work a miracle in your life, making something beautiful out of what seemed broken beyond repair. He can turn your broken life into a golden life.

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.