Lacquer and Gold

If you will, take a moment and picture your heart as a piece of handmade pottery.  It can take whatever shape you choose, with whatever colors or designs you’d like.  Picture this heart of yours as a simple, yet elegant piece.  It’s beautiful.  This isn’t some Color-Me-Mine type dish your 3 year old made.  Not this one.  The most incredible potter in the entire universe handcrafted this heart of yours and handed it off to you.  You admire it.  It’s incredible.  What handiwork! Every detail is hand painted, making it preciously unique.  This is mine, you say to yourself, wrapping it in your hands, keeping it safe from the rest of the world. Inevitably, as you carry it along, you bump it on some things, maybe you spill something on it or chip one of the corners.  Maybe you have a clumsy day and crack it a little bit.  Despite the small imperfections, it maintains its beauty and its wholeness.  It holds its value.  It’s still yours.

Oh, but then someone comes along and you want to share this masterpiece with them.  You’re hesitant at first because you wonder if someone besides yourself can be trusted with something so fragile.  You tell yourself that something this beautiful and unique deserves to be shared with someone, especially someone you love.  So, with sweaty palms, a pounding heart, and a tinge of reluctance, you hand your pottery over to this person.  You watch them handle it carefully, admiring all of its beauty.  They examine it closely, observing all the intricacies of it.  They study it, memorizing the small curves and the way the light hits it and shines on your face.

For some, the story ends there.  The pottery is forever safe and forever whole with nothing but a few chips here and there.  Realistically, that’s not everyone’s story.  For a lot of us, it’s recklessly handled at our hands or the hands of others.  Sometimes it’s dropped and shattered into tiny pieces.  Other times, it’s just tossed around haphazardly, still maintaining its wholeness, but losing its shine with cracks running through its body.  We lose our sense of protection over it and we don’t reclaim what was initially ours to hold because we have a sense of, I gave this to you to protect.  I trusted you would keep it whole.  

We are left with the shattered remains of what was once something to be admired. What we do with those shambles of our heart, that depends.  Me? Initially, I scoop them all up in a neat little pile and set them on the counter, just looking at them.  I examine the pieces from afar, wondering, how did this happen?  I leave them there for a bit.  I let the dust settle, without really acknowledging what happened.  Then, I realize the pieces are taking up counter space and I want them off of there as soon as possible.  So I sift through my junk drawer and find whatever I can that might hold these pieces together.  Scotch tape? Cool, that should do the trick!  Throw on some Friends and start just doing what I can to try to get this back to the way it was before.  There are gaping holes, pieces that don’t fit anywhere, and the whole thing is misshapen.  There are jagged edges and it’s highly unstable. However, it’s still mine and it’s finally, somewhat put together. I hold it gingerly as I move through my days, because I remember how much it hurt the last time it crumbled.

Oh, hey. You look like you can be trusted with this.  Yeah, no, it used to be prettier.  It’s been through a lot.  Am I sure I want to hand it off?  Yeah, it doesn’t need more fixing.  It’s ready for you.  During the hand-off, pieces break off and fall to the ground. The jagged edges make small cuts in the hands of the receiver.  These injuries are not intentional.  I wouldn’t do that.  They’re the result of poor workmanship and a rushed repair.  Doesn’t make the cuts hurt any less.  But they hold onto it, because they love me and see the beauty that once was and the beauty it still holds, even in its misshapen form.  They cling to it, knowing there’s a chance that I’ll be able to piece it back together and make it whole once more.  Cuts are still cuts.  So after they can’t handle the cuts any longer, they hand my misshapen, used-to-be-beautiful masterpiece back to me.  Away I walk, wondering what happened.  Is it that horrible to look at?  Is it so broken that nobody will ever love it? 

There’s a Japanese art called “kintsugi”.  Kintsugi uses lacquer and gold to put shattered pieces of pottery back together.  It’s a long process and the mending takes time.  The artist has to methodically put all of the pieces back together at the same time.  The lacquer has to dry and set, then it needs to be sanded down so it’s flush with the rest of the piece.  The creator then paints over the lacquer with gold and where there once were cracks, there is now beauty.  The piece is once again whole, this time, more beautiful than it was before it broke.

Now, after doing some reading on kinstugi, I learned that there are people who specialize in this.  Not just anyone can do this, it takes a trained individual to complete it.  Are you seeing where I’m going with this?  Has my metaphor come full circle yet?

We often pick up the shambles of our heart and are in a rush to put it back together.  We attempt to hold the pieces together by throwing ourselves into work, the gym, nights out, whatever.  Then, we find someone we trust with our heart and we open it up, but our wounds aren’t healed.  The cracks in our heart have yet to be filled, leaving jagged edges.  These sharp pieces are hard for people to hold, even those who say they will.  Then, when they can no longer take it, they step back for some relief, leaving us thinking, it’s too damaged.

Oh, but it isn’t!  It just hasn’t been placed in the hands of someone who knows how to fix it.  God knows what to do with brokenness.  He knows what our heart looked like in its original form.  He knows the process it has to go through to ensure that it’s left stronger and more beautiful than it was before it was broken.  He knows.

With time in the hands of the Creator, our hearts can be returned to us in a form that leaves us in disbelief that it was once in shattered pieces on the floor.  Its former brokenness isn’t covered up.  It’s not hidden.  It’s displayed proudly, filled with a sturdy lacquer and covered in a beautiful gold paint.  Kintsugi acknowledges the former brokenness and uses it to create something infinitely more beautiful and inspiring.

I like to think the lacquer are the truths we discover about who we are and what we are capable of, the friends we find strength in, the ways in which we surprise ourselves. The gold?  That’s the joy that radiates from us when we tell our story.  That’s the way we walk a little taller now, knowing we are beautifully made, flaws and all.  That’s the hope we have found in healing.  That’s the confidence we have found in having been broken and made anew.

What a tragically beautiful process it can be to allow ourselves to be truly healed.  With true healing comes the readiness to take that heart of yours out for the rest of the world to admire.  With true healing comes a willingness to hand over your heart.  When you’ve had it broken and have seen what God can do to it, it’s not as scary, because you understand if it happens again, He’ll work his magic once more.

Find your lacquer, find your gold, and admire the beauty that comes from having been broken.



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