God Makes Beauty out of our Broken Places
by Heather Bock
One day, God instructed Jeremiah to head down to the potter’s house. He knew we humans understand the divine just a bit better when we have a metaphor, an image at which to gaze.
While there, Jeremiah watched as the potter made something on his wheel and afterwards found it was shachath in the potter’s hand. This Hebrew word means “to be marred, spoiled, corrupted, corrupt, injured, ruined” (Strong’s). Have you ever felt that any of these words described you?
What did the potter do with this creation of His? Did he toss it on the refuse pile? No, he remade it as he pleased to remake it.
That is when God spoke: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay?” He asked. “As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand” (Jer. 18:6).
As one of God’s pieces of pottery, if I had the choice, I might choose to be a vessel for something sweet, a carrier of something that delights.
Maybe I would choose to be a bearer of life and healing for others.
Of course, it would be comfortable to choose to be part of a set, doing my job alongside others like me.
No matter what I would choose, even if I weren’t given a choice, I know I would want to be whole–unbroken and beautiful–an honor to the Potter.
However, I’ve lived in this world long enough to know I am not whole. On my own, I am not perfect, without chips or cracks. I am probably more like this, barely held together by my own wrapped black cord of works, not able to hold much of value.
But God…the two words that forever bring hope…But God takes me, the cracked, broken piece of pottery that could have been thrown out, and remakes me as He pleases to remake me.
If it were up to me, I would have God make me and my fellow broken pots completely new, perfect and complete again.
God has something else in mind.
Japanese potters from as far back as the late 15th century decided to try something new with the broken pieces of pottery they had. The legend has it that wealthy shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu accidentally broke a tea bowl he loved. He sent it to be repaired, but he wasn’t pleased with the results–it had been repaired with unsightly staples. Therefore, Japanese artisans set about to find a more beautiful way to repair his broken pottery.
Whether it came about in this way or not, a pottery reparation method that began being used in Japan around this time period, although doing away with obvious metal staples, did not rely on the idea commonly used today of making the damage disappear as much as possible. Instead, the idea was to beautify the very signs of damage, to make the cracks and chips stand out in a new and stunning way. Instead of erasing the flaws, it acknowledged and highlighted them. It made beauty out of the broken. This method became known as kintsugi, a term that means, “golden rejoining” (Stewart).
Bowl photo by Daderot; Vase photo by Suw Charman-Anderson; Plates photo: 02.09.2010: Lotte Dekker “Bison Kintsugi”. Ars Electronica Festival Linz. Foto: Tine Nowak
The artist uses a gold-dusted epoxy to adhere the pieces back together, sometimes replacing large chips entirely with the lacquer. At other times, missing pieces are replaced with striking fragments of other pieces of pottery, creating a new, unique blend.
My Potter is putting my broken pieces back together in a way that is more beautiful than before, too. The places where I’ve been cracked are being fortified with gold. He uses my broken places to bring beauty into the world when I let Him form me as He pleases.
This process is not always easy, and before completion, it’s not pretty.
I may feel like I have heavy weights upon me as I wait for my transformation.
But in the end, it will be worth it, and I will be renewed.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
II Cor. 4:16-18
36 thoughts on “God Makes Beauty out of our Broken Places”
Mold me and make me
after Thy will,
While I am waiting,
Yielded and still
Beautiful! A poem or song?
Even though the initial commenter didn’t respond, I recognize the words. It’s from the hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord”
Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way;
Thou are the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me, after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.”
It reminds me of a little chorus we sang every chapel two times a week one entire year at my Christian high school in the 70’s: “Spirit of the Living God”
Spirit of the Living God
Fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the Living God,
Fall afresh on me!
Melt me, mold me, use me, fill me,
Spirit of the Living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Thank you for enlightening me, Jewl! I didn’t recognize the hymn, but I do recognize the song you used to sing!
Beautiful! And in season.
Thank you! Why in season?
Walking through illness with my 13 year old. Helping her understand “why?” So timely for me. Taking our broken shards and reinforcing them with His might. Thank you, Jesus!
Nice piece, Heather
I’m glad it gave you some hope in a really hard time. Praying for you!
Heather, do you know Allen Arnold’s book, The Story of With? The cover picture is a kintsugi bottle. The book is about creating with the Creator.
No—sounds interesting! Thanks for directing me to it!
Beautiful post. Love the truth spoken and the pictures are perfect. Thank you!
Heather, I loved the way you captured everything with the last three photos and the words you have with them. Wow. I know I could relate to all three pictures and the way you described them. I thought about how different seasons of my life may have even looked like the progression you described. Thanks for sharing!! ~Krishana
I’m glad it spoke to you, too! When I saw the pictures, I thought about how similar they were to life sometimes!
Thank you for this wonderful reminder. We are beautiful in His eyes, cracks and all, but He doesn’t leave us that way and refines us with gold!
I’m definitely glad He does!
Yes! It hurts so much when life shatters but His peace beyond understanding is ours and He is always comforting, strengthening, and improving! Thank you for your beautiful words and beautiful pictures!
Thank you for these words—what a good way to put it!
Heather, thank you for this meaningful post. I enjoyed reading it and found the Japanese potter information very interesting. “But God” –indeed!
It was new information for me, too, and I found it so fascinating I had to share it!
Heather, Not sure where to start! You’ve beautifully used words and pictures to share both our deepest fears and our amazing hope. So often I feel broken, even shattered and I despair of ever being able to honor our Master Potter. Yet you remind me, that Jesus heals the cracks, the gaping holes and can even put back together the shattered shards. Thanks for the hope you have shared with us.
Thank you for your kind words! It’s hope for me, too. I wish I had a piece of Kintsugi in my house as a reminder!
I have always loved this metaphor in the Bible, and you have illustrated it beautifully. I especially love the way you explained kintsugi, “golden rejoining.” I have never heard of that before, but it is such a perfect description of what God will do with our imperfect selves if we just let Him.
Thank you! It’s a new concept for me, too. I loved the metaphor it presented as soon as I heard about it from a friend.
We lived in Japan for four years. I loved watching the Japanese potters work. What a beautiful post in word, image and truth.
Thank you! Did you see them do kintsugi?
What a beautiful picture of what God does for/to us! That He uses the broken and even makes it beautiful.
Thank you! I thought it was a beautiful metaphor.
A few years ago, we frequented an outdoor cafe while we were going through a period of brokenness in our family. Just across the way, an artist’s studio featured mosaics made of broken pieces of colored glass. It was beautiful–perhaps more beautiful than the original glass vessels. I remember staring at those mosaics as God revealed to me exactly what you’ve shared here (except without the Japanese approach). Thanks for reminding me of that time and for sharing this encouragement!
Yes, a mosaic is another picture of God using our brokenness to bring beauty—love it!
I love this passage from Jeremiah, and I love the picture you’ve created with it. The gold epoxy is such gold in so many ways!! Thank you!
Thank you! I didn’t create the picture, though, so I can’t take credit. The idea was given to me by a friend!
Either way, fantastic!!
Thank you for commenting!