Recently I read an article on my iPad about ‘Kintsugi’, the Japanese art of mending broken pottery by filling the cracks with amalgam mixed with powdered gold. I was deeply touched. It made me think about our western culture’s approach when a fragile but cherished vessel is broken.
Spiritually speaking, it seems the world will try super glue while the devil suggests a trashcan. God alone has a way of fixing things so that something greater comes forth. His healing power is mirrored in the beautiful art form of Kintsugi where broken vessels are repaired with gold in a way that goes beyond simply repairing – a more beautiful vessel is formed.
In the midst of the prophet Jeremiah’s frustration with his nation, God reminded him that He alone is the master potter and has power to both create and recreate when a vessel is marred. (Jer.18)
Although the term ‘kintsugi’ literally means “golden joinery”, it embraces so much more that those two descriptive words. As an art form ‘kintsugi’ points to the idea of valuing the history of something that has been broken and is made whole again in a new identity. The new re-formed whole contains not only the remembrance of that which was before but also what is now – something that had been broken into pieces and is now reformed, incorporating the additional joining amalgam that is noticeable and traceable.
In this ancient Japanese art of repair the artist does not try to hide the history, rather the history is highlighted with veins of gold or perhaps silver, thus adding a new dimension to the vessel’s value and beauty. This is a perfect picture of what the Spirit of God does when joined to our life in the very area that life seeks to break.
Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century preacher and writer, prayed: “Lord, you have done more with us than you did with Thomas, for he was told to place his finger into the open wounds in your hands and side, but you O Lord God have done something greater with us for you placed your finger into our open wounds and healed them.” Indeed, God puts His finger into the wounds in our life and seals them with gold.
This sheds light on the mystery regarding suffering.
In the final hours of his life, Jesus warned Peter that the enemy sought to sift the young apostle and rob him of his calling. Why did Jesus pray for Peter to come through the ordeal successfully? Why not rather pray that Peter would be able to sidestep the sifting in the first place?
First, in some way, the warfare intended by the enemy to break us can actually make us stronger and of greater value when we bring the brokenness to Jesus. Joseph, for example, was made stronger by his ordeal of betrayal while David was fashioned into a commander through his experiences in the cave of Adullam. Even scriptwriters understand the formula – the frail old Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi engaged in a light saber duel with Darth Vader in order to buy time for the next generation to escape…”Strike me down” he warned, “and I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
When a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it multiplies. Isn’t it true that often when we meet people who have suffered and gone through painful situations and who have experienced this ‘dying’ that Jesus talks about that it is a delight to spend time with them, being touched by their humility, grace, love and freedom. Watching the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, it seemed the whole world was reflecting on what an amazing man he was despite having been through his own horrific and painful struggles. Taking a metaphor from the story of Jacob wrestling with God and afterwards walking for the rest of his life with a limp, this reminds me that we can trust those who God brings into our lives who walk with a limp.
Given a choice between being spared temporary discomfort or choosing moments of affliction and trouble which work to produce “a weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17), which would you choose? To be delivered “from” the process or delivered “through” the process? Many times we will be delivered from the fire, but when we walk “through” the fire God declares “I will be with you!” (Is. ??) You will come out a winner on the other side and, like Peter, Joseph and David, the new vessel will be able to contain and reveal a whole new level of glory. God is the ultimate “kintsugi” artist.
Technology, like so many other things today, can be used for good or evil. In my case, it has enabled me to communicate on a regular basis with all my friends spread out in Eastern Europe. Gone are my Bible smuggling days in the 60s and 70s when Chris would not hear at all from me during the entire duration of my long trips away. Now, thanks to FaceTime and Skype we can not only speak but also see each other on a daily basis. How grateful I am for my small iPhone and iPad. Not so long ago I had my first video conference call with a small group of leaders in Poland from the comfort of my study at home. The apostle Paul would have loved this technology in his jail in Rome! However, I wonder if his emails would have been kept as diligently as his letters so we could still read them today.
I continue to travel and be a father to the leaders I have known for so many years. I am grateful to the Lord for continuing good health, which enables me to still travel like a thirty year old – although I’ve started to miss my own bed at home more and more! In January a small group of us will meet and spend a few days together in the Czech Republic. Please pray for wisdom and discernment as issues come up and I sometimes have to give counsel unexpectedly – I then find myself praying one of those short prayers ‘Help!’
I do so appreciate your prayers, friendship and financial support (which I do not take for granted) and pray that this coming Christmas will be a very special time for you and your whole family.
Love and Grace,
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