03.26.20 – Broken?

Journal entry by Vicki Bunke 

Sometimes life hits us, and it hits us hard. So hard in fact that it breaks us: the loss of a job, a cancer diagnosis, divorce, the death of a child or spouse or parent or any loved one for that matter, or in this current time, a global pandemic.

Things like this can take anyone, no matter how strong they are, and shatter them on the floor like a vase. Brokenness is not beyond anyone. The right circumstances, at the wrong time can break the best of us, but the Japanese art of Kintsugi shows us there is beauty and value in brokenness.

What is Kintsugi?

The word Kintsugi is the combination of two words: Kin = Golden and tsugi = Joinery. It is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed or dusted with gold. But it really is more than just repair. This method brings new life to pottery pieces by highlighting their brokenness. It reminds us that breakage is not the end – cracks are not flaws but are natural elements that happen in life – proving flexibility of use and embracing change and brokenness as inevitable.

Kintsugi provides us with a framework to consider our own lives – its ups and downs, fragility and sensitivity, brittleness and toughness, trauma and reparation. It reminds us that repaired things can be more beautiful and of greater value than unbroken things.

Yesterday marked 2 years since Grace left this world. Today would have been her 17th year on this planet. Our family had anticipated celebrating these past few days differently. In preparation of these celebratory plans, I had purchased etched wine glasses that mimic Kintsugi pottery to give to these friends so we could properly toast and recognize both days. However, given our current state of social distancing, those plans changed.

But that is ok. Why? Because as the Kintsugi tradition reminds us, wounds and hurt and disappointment become the places where we are the strongest; the place where the pain does the holding together. It is the profound understanding that the more broken, cracked, or chipped an object is, the more precious it becomes. In other words, the breakage and mending are an important part of the story. And, most painfully but crucially, the shattered object surrendered itself to allow Another’s hands to fix and heal and glue it back together.

That’s how I see our family. Broken but beautiful. And that is also how I see our world right now. Every time the global map of the pandemic is displayed across our television screen, all I see is a Kintsugi portrait of brokenness. I see waves of gold traveling across the broken map of sickness. I know without a doubt that our country and world will survive this pandemic. And just like our broken family, this broken world will be way more beautiful once He puts it all back together.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” (Ernest Hemingway)

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