It is the art of taking broken vessels and mending them with gold. The method sees breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to cover up and disguise. In fact, there is absolutely no attempt to hide the damage, and the repair is literally illuminated with gold.
The vessel is restored, yet forever changed — and has more value than before.
Have you been so broken you felt you were beyond repair?
I don’t think you can be alive today without experiencing brokenness brought on by others, circumstance, rejection, tragedy, loss, the list goes on and on.
We all carry the scars of our past. The challenge is taking those scars and not hiding them. When we can be fully restored, healed, and made whole — our scars can give God glory.
But, like Kintsugi, before the repair can be illuminated, we have to go through the mending process.
STEP ONE: Remember He was broken First.
“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5, NLT
Through His suffering and death on the cross, He paid the price. He was broken so we could be made whole.
I recently tried my hand at a Kintsugi piece. I found a ceramic mug at a local secondhand store and thought the project would be therapeutic.
I was wrong. The process was painstaking.
After I shattered the mug with a hammer, I had to sift through the broken shards to find some semblance of the vessel that once was. It was like a cruel puzzle with pieces that had been shattered into dust — never to be found again.
I could not rush the process. There was order to putting each piece back together, one at a time. It was a slow, methodical procedure of aligning the broken pieces together, allowing the golden epoxy and resin to act as a salve, binding the vessel.
Isn’t that a perfect example of our brokenness?
Sometimes, the shattering of our lives, results in pieces that are forever lost — turned into dust.
Twenty years ago, my life was shattered in one night. Pieces of me lost, never to be put back together again.
I was an Honor Roll student, a National Honors Society and Model United Nations member, a two-sport athlete, and had my choice college set in my sights. Then, in the span of less than an hour, “victim” was added to my identity. The post-traumatic effects of that moment took their toll, sending me into a spiral of compromise and poor decisions.
I was filled with immense shame — one of the hallmarks of the enemy.
The devil wants to keep the broken, shattered. He does not want those who have suffered to rise up and live the life they are called to live.
After two years, I’d had enough. I made the decision to meet with a counselor.
There’s such a stigma attached to asking for professional help. But, I have to tell you, if you feel like you’re lost in your own thoughts and emotions, unsure of how to make sense of it all…seeking wise, Godly counsel is biblical.
Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in [her] own eyes, but a wise [woman] listens to advice.” Proverbs 3:5-6, says to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…. And lean not to your OWN understanding, but in ALL your ways acknowledge Him.”
During that time with my counselor, I had a vision of the Lord reaching down to me to pull me out of a pit. It was a deep, dark manhole, but I had to climb up the ladder along that wall of the pit, rung by rung, in order to reach His outstretched hand.
His hand that had been stretched out on a cross for me.
His hand that had been pierced for me.
His body that had been broken for me.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, it says that His grace is sufficient for me, and His strength is made perfect in MY WEAKNESS. But I had to do my part. Just like the vision of me being down in that dark pit, I saw the Father’s hand reach down for me…but I had to reach up.
Maybe that’s why I relate to the story of Jesus forgiving and healing the paralyzed man.
The story begins in Luke 5:17.
17One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus.
18Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, 19but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.”
The story continues in verse 24:
…”Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” 25And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God.
I love the fact that Jesus told him to “pick up” his mat. He wasn’t told to leave it behind, throw it away, or hide it.
He had to do his part: pick up his mat…then walk.
The mat signified his testimony — by carrying it where he went, he was able to give Jesus all acknowledgement for the miraculous work done. The mat was the historical reminder of what he had come from and been through.
Others need our “mat story” for His glory.
After the man was healed, the very next verse says:
26Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!”
Others need to hear our history to be encouraged for their future. They need to see the once fractured pieces of our lives, mended with gold…illuminating the miraculous healing of the Lord.
We need to make what Jesus did greater than anything that has happened to us.
In our brokenness, Jehovah Rapha, God our Healer, can put us back together in a way that our scars tell a story. Through every test — every mat we’ve been laid up on for years — we can have a testimony.
STEP TWO: Remember OUR brokenness can have purpose.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says,
“He was despised and rejected — a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” NIV
Did you pick up on the order?
- HE suffered FIRST.
- HE comforts us FIRST.
- Then…WE comfort others NEXT.
Four years after my experience, I found a friend in the middle of the street on our college campus. She had been assaulted.
I called 911, waited for the police, and held her hand in the hospital as she endured the agonizing process of a forensic exam. I don’t know if anyone else could have been as equipped to be there for her in those moments as I was. Because of my suffering, I was able to sit with her, and comfort her with the same comfort that God had given me years before.
Today, I am no longer broken.
It took time and healing that only the Lord could provide — but I am on the other side of that sorrow — mended and whole.
When I think about my own restoration, I understand how a shattered life can be put back together, having more value than before.
Each of us carry the story of our hurts so we can turn around and use all of it — the pain and the heartache — and give God glory. He helps us first so we can help someone else with what we’ve come through. He extends grace to us first, so we can turn around and be gracious and forgive those with the same graciousness and forgiveness we ourselves have received. Others can see our healed scars and be comforted through our triumph over misery and suffering.
If we allow God to work, we can be restored, forever changed, and illuminate His glory.
“Kintsugi” illustration by Anke Gladnick