It’s a new year. And of course, that means the dreaded ‘R’ word…. Resolutions. I usually don’t make them. Because the feeling of failure when I can’t fulfill them is too painful on my self-esteem. So I opt to not make them at all.
The ultimate in giving up, or just smart living? You can decide… the jury is still out over here.
But this year, as I awoke on New Year’s Day, I felt a little differently about the whole thing. Not because I was jumping up and down about eating organic, or losing weight, or any of the resolutions I’ve made in the past, but because I started to see a fragility – a weakness – in myself I hadn’t noticed before. And I am in hot pursuit of ways to be stronger.
No, not physically, although that would be a nice touch. I have a feeling that while I am strengthened within, my body will become stronger as well, but that will surely be a side effect and not the primary goal.
The truth is, I’m feeling broken. Because in this life (like many of you,) I’ve gotten dropped and kicked around, and chipped and dented, and while I thought I had been properly mended it turns out I think I haven’t been… at least not as well as I would like to be.
The past few years have been so wonderful. My husband is so good to me, and kind and gentle, and while marriage causes the heart a few bumps and jostles here and there, I don’t think mine has brought me any major cuts and scrapes. But it also didn’t heal me the way I thought it would. I always imagined that once I got married, the scars I have from previous relationships, friendships, and situations would magically fade into nothingness, becoming a fresh, strong tissue that would be nourished and nurtured through my relationship with my husband.
But a few days ago, I laid in bed remembering when an old boyfriend hurt me deeply, and I had a hard time falling asleep… I wondered why some of these old wounds are still so fresh when I think back on them. Here’s what I know for sure. I have a lot of old wounds. They still cause me aches and pains. And they still fester up and give me trouble in my current relationships and circumstances.
A few months ago, I enrolled in a pottery class – an 8-week wheel throwing class where I learned how to turn lumps of mucky brown earth into vessels worthy of display! Maybe they aren’t, really, but my family tells they they look pretty, at any rate. I worked for weeks on a vase for my mother that I was particularly proud of. It was tall and wide, and I had allowed my fingers to make deep bevels in its sides. A few weeks later, when it was ‘leather-hard’ as my teacher calls it, I meticulously tidied the edges and used sponges to sand down rough spots, and even out places that were imbalanced. When I felt it was ready for the kiln, I carefully set it aside to dry thoroughly.
A week passed, and my phone rang. It was the studio calling to tell me that my vase – the one I had worked so ambitiously and tirelessly on – had exploded while under fire in the kiln. “WHY?” I asked, panicked at the thought of my hard work in pieces in a 2000 degree oven. “We don’t know for sure,” my teacher explained. “These things happen. But it was most likely a weakness in the pottery. There could have been an air bubble, or maybe a wet place that hadn’t dried thoroughly enough.”
A bit of wet clay or a tiny little air bubble took down weeks of hard work. What’s even worse is that when my vase exploded, it could have broken other pieces around it – beautifully handcrafted pieces belonging to my classmates and friends – and turned them into shards of clay scattered about the kiln. I’m thankful that somehow, this time, my broken mess only affected myself.
Clay is so fragile – so delicate. God calls himself our potter. He declares that he is the potter, and we are the clay. But something tells me that if God is the one who molds and shapes us, and polishes our edges, we should be able to stand up to the fiery scorch of the kiln.
And I’ve had to let that mull around in my head lately. Because when I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t see a beautiful piece of pottery, all shiny and glazed with smooth edges and beautiful bevels. I see an old vessel, kind of chipped and cracked in places. My glaze is a bit dull in spots, and most dangerously, I feel a bit weak… like I’ve been dropped and broken and glued back together, but the glue isn’t quite holding.
I feel it, deep in my soul. This brokenness leaving sharp edges that are cutting those around me, & even cutting me in places.
My God made me strong enough for the kiln. He molded me and put a shine on me and set me out in this world fired and ready to be used by him however he saw fit. His work didn’t fail in the kiln. But the sin nature of this world causes even God’s perfect creation to be contaminated by jealousy, anger, broken trust, and betrayal. These things (and things like them), wound our souls.
And that’s where this new year finds me. My shine is dull, I’m chipped in places, and absolutely broken in others.
The Japanese have a technique for fixing broken pottery. It’s called Kintsukuroi. A Kintsugi artist mixes gold, or sometimes silver into a resin. Then, he fixes the vessel in one of three ways. He can fill in the small cracks or scratches with gold, barely overlapping so the piece is perfectly smooth. He can replace entire missing pieces of the vessel with gold. He can also use similar ceramic pieces to fill in large gaps in a broken vessel, joining them with the shining resin, creating a patchwork effect. In all techniques, brilliant lines of gold or silver hold the piece together.
The ceramics look gorgeous. But the true beauty lies in the sentiment behind the technique. In our consumerist world, broken things get thrown away. We sweep up the mess and toss it in the trash. But Kintsukuroi takes something broken and not only salvages it, but actually makes it more beautiful, more valuable, and more desirable.
It also makes it stronger. In fact, some people were known to intentionally break their pottery so they could have it repaired with gold! Just as we ask God to sometimes break us so he can teach us and help us learn and grow…
Imagine if we let God Kintsukuroi our broken pieces.
And that, my friends, is my New Year’s Resolution. I want to live so deeply in the will of God that he can spend time binding my broken places with gold. Not just so that I’m ‘fixed,’ but so that I’m actually more beautiful as a result. And stronger. And more valuable. I want my scars and scrapes to bring glory to him – to allow him to show off his redeeming power over this world. I want you to see that my sharp edges and chipped bevels are a part of a mosaic that has shaped and formed me into the woman he chooses to make me.
I’m not sure what being ‘Kintsukuroi’d’ by God will look like. But I have a hunch it’s going to involve people. Words of those who love me. Situations that bring changes in my life. Challenges that force me to grow in my walk with him. And I’m guessing it won’t be easy, and might even hurt at times.
But I resolve that I will allow myself to be ‘Kintsukuroi’d’ and I will be God’s assistant potter as he ‘Kintsukuroi’s’ others around me.