“It was the first time I realized that painting could capture the Word of God, speak into people’s lives and give me the opportunity to share my faith.”

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Every day all around the globe, artists on mission are creating, cultivating, and contributing in their communities. As they seek to see their art used in the work the Lord is doing, we want to share their stories to encourage and inspire.
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Wednesday, 11 January 2023 21:31

Kintsugi and a Theology of Brokenness

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Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Makoto and Haejin Fujimura speak. I was excited – though I did not have much personal experience with Makoto’s work, my artistic friends and co-workers spoke highly of his writing (Culture Care and Art and Faith, among others). The topic they had chosen to present on was kintsugi, the ancient Japanese practice of mending cracked or broken pottery with gold. I knew a little bit about kintsugi and was intrigued. I was unprepared, however, for the intricate theological correlations Makoto and Haejin would make, leading to my own continued musings.

Kintsugi is a compound of two Japanese words – “kin” meaning gold and “tsugi” meaning to mend. Kintsugi means “to mend with gold.” In Japan, Japanese tea masters keep pieces of broken pottery for long periods of time. Later, they may be mended with the use of Japanese lacquer and gold. The pieces are glued back together with the lacquer, which is then allowed to dry before being dusted with gold. Now, the cracks that were once seen as a defect make the entire piece brilliant.

There are two things about kintsugi that are of note to me. The first is that the very process of kintsugi highlights the cracks rather than hides them. Kintsugi says that there is purpose in the breaking. It highlights the history of a piece of pottery rather than seeking to restore it to some sort of pseudo-perfection. Second, kintsugi makes the piece worth much more than it was before. Rather than simply restoring what once was, kintsugi creates something new and far more valuable.

Makoto and Haejin made numerous theological connections with kintsugi that left me wrestling. For you see, this is the gospel. We are irrevocably broken, and Christ comes and makes something new and profoundly beautiful out of our broken pieces. He doesn’t whitewash or erase the cracks, instead He highlights them, infusing them with His precious grace and power to create something brand new. It is something only He can do – taking the broken and using it to make something new and better than before.

Makoto and Haejin discussed how Jesus Himself was raised with scars. His post-resurrection body wasn’t restored to its pre-crucifixion (or even pre-incarnate) state, rather, it retained the scars of the brutality of the cross so that it might continue to testify to His saving power.

The more I have thought about kintsugi, the more I have resonated with it. We all encounter loss, grief, and brokenness while we are here on earth. Often, I want to hide those parts of myself, pushing them away when they come up so that I can avoid the pain. However, Jesus wants to take our pain and create something more beautiful with it by filling the cracks with His healing and grace. The question is – will I let Him? The process of mending is not easy, but it produces a beautiful piece of art filled with the goodness of God.

To hear Makoto talking about kintsugi, click on the photo below!

Theology of Making Image

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