My grandparents grew up during the Great Depression. My dad would remind me of this when, as a kid, my grandmother instructed my brother and me to wash and hang-dry the used tin foil in her kitchen when we were on clean up duty following a family dinner. Similarly, my granddad was an auto mechanic. Many of my memories involve having conversations with him where I could only see the lower half of his body because the rest of him was hidden under the hood or rolled underneath some automobile that he was just sure he could squeeze another few miles out of.
That generation took pride in making things last. In fixing the broken and investing in something that was valuable. This isn’t something we think much about today.
We live in a mostly disposable culture. We use paper plates. I have never mended a hole in the heal of one of my kids’ socks. A couple years ago, I purchased a new stove and had a salesman tell me with complete transparency, “You’re probably lucky to get 10 years out of one of these appliances. They just don’t make them to last anymore.”
But there are some things in our lives we simply cannot replace — things that we must mend and tend to with great diligence and care in order to keep them functional. These things are truly the treasures of our lives, but they can also be the things that are the most delicate and challenging to restore.
So often, when we look at the broken things in our lives, the tendency is to see the pieces and ask, “What can we salvage?” or to just assume those broken pieces are no longer valuable because they’re only a fraction of what once was whole. We wonder if the pieces that are broken are necessary — can we function without this particular piece or that one?
But perhaps our focus is on the wrong thing.
A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the ancient, Japanese art of Kintsugi. Kintsugi involves repairing broken pottery using lacquer that’s mixed with gold powder. While the pieces I’ve seen of this artform are beautiful, I’m actually more compelled by the philosophy behind Kintsugi, which treats brokenness and repair as part of the depth and character of a piece instead of that which makes it less valuable or worthy of being hidden. In other words, an object’s fragility and its resilience in being reassembled is what makes it beautiful and of high value.
In Kintsugi, the golden seams which hold together once fractured pieces of an item give testimony to its history, its resilience and its future potential instead of its demise or its uselessness. The golden grout of Kintsugi becomes the focal point. So, there’s no longer an emphasis on the individual pieces of the pot, or the plate or the cup. Instead, the focus turns to the thing that holds those pieces together.
In his letter to the Church at Colossae (1:15–20), the Apostle Paul writes that before anything existed, in the midst of our present realities, and for every day that is yet to come, Jesus Christ is the one in the center. He is the one who holds it all together and who gives all of it purpose and promise.
Like a beautiful golden grout, Jesus takes broken pieces from our past, present and future and holds them together in perfect union. There is nothing wasted in his craftsmanship and no piece of the whole matters more or less than the others. Because, in the end, when Jesus is at the center of our lives, it is the beauty of the mending he has done and is doing in us that is the true art form to behold.
Dr. Emily Vermilya lives in Marion, Indiana, where she serves as executive pastor at College Wesleyan Church.