Kintsugi: The art of restoration, an act of healing



“He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Several years ago, I came across a video from Grotto Network, a digital-media publication from the University of Notre Dame. It introduced me to the art form of Kintsugi. Kintsugi means gold (kin) stitching (tsugi). This Japanese art form utilizes a lacquer derived from the sap of a tree to bind the pieces of a broken ceramic article back together, as though sewing each segment one to the other. The seams are then carefully painted with gold dust, making each crack standout so that it can be easily seen. This might seem odd to us, but the new form of the object is often considered to be more valuable than its original form.

I immediately felt drawn to Kintsugi – not only because of the artistic beauty of the technique, but even more so because of the spiritual aspects that flow from the experience of mending what is broken. I find that this process speaks to me of a life in Christ.

As much as I wanted to believe as a child that there were some people in the world who lived a perfect existence and were not touched by tragedy or pain, it was an illusion that, for me, was short-lived. Growing up in the 6os and 70s presented realities that could not be denied. A brother who went off to war; a friend’s brother who didn’t return; a cousin’s cancer diagnosis; closing of the Youngstown steel mills; the loss of jobs; the list does go on. I quickly came to realize that I would be hard-pressed to find people who did not experience suffering and were not broken in places. I remember wondering how individuals function and carry on under the weight of what they carry. It was not until I was much older that I began to understand how many make it through to the other side.

Leonard Cohen once said, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Jesus is that light. He brought the light into a world that was broken and in need of healing. The light that he brings illuminates the dark places of our lives, allowing us to see ourselves as we truly are: each His child, uniquely and wonderfully made, and precious and cherished. We are loved into existence by a love that is all-encompassing. As we allow the light in, we begin to see what God sees.

God’s grace working in our lives changes us. It allows us to be fashioned by the potter who creates beauty, even in the midst of our brokenness. The tender care shown us—and its effect—shines forth. It is easily seen, just like the gold of Kintsugi. Just as the mended pottery is now restored, made whole and more beautiful, we too are restored, transformed, and made whole—even more radiant than before.