In Japan there is a craft known as "kintsugi." Kintsugi is the practice of restoring valuable china with a golden lacquer. In this manner china, such as a vase, increases in value over time. This increase in value is not due to the fact that its original state has been maintained over time but contrariwise. It's value increases precisely because it has been broken and beautifully restored. It other words, it is in the golden seams that "healed the brokenness" of the vase that its increased value is to be found.
As I reflect on kintsugi vases I think back over the many years of my ministry and my own life, recalling how much time has been spent healing that which was broken. Certainly life is full of abundant blessings but so, too, brokenness. The experience of brokenness in life is unavoidable, especially when it comes to relationships. Sometimes we simply fail to hold one another with enough care and consideration. When relationships break, too often we recoil in our woundedness, or shame, or self-righteous indignation, sweeping up the pieces of our shattered selves only to walk away. At the same time, I have seen times when this doesn't happen, times when rather than walking away people decide to do the hard work of piecing the relationship back together. I have seen people sit together in their woundedness and find a greater strength than the wound itself. I have seen people admit their shame and allow love to overcome it. I have seen people dissolve their righteous indignation with acts of contrition and humility. I have seen people, numerous times over, heal the brokenness.
When relationships are thus restored, it is a beautiful thing. That which was broken is now held together more beautifully than before, with strength, with love... with contrition and humility. In fact, living through life together - not only life's abundant blessings but life's brokenness as well - is the source of much of the beauty we find in relationships. Even further, healing the brokenness, together, can be the route to sacred depths... With this in mind, consider the relationships in your life? Do they lie shattered in pieces on the floor or do they resemble a kintsugi vase? If the former is the case, perhaps it is time to take up a new craft...
I am Dr. Riegel, minister at Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church. Enjoy my occasional blog posts here, which may cover subjects ranging from spirituality to psychology to ethics to social justice to church life and beyond...