The Kintsugi pot, is the ancient Japanese practice of mending a cracked, chipped pot with a sealant. Originally cracked pots were sealed with melted lead, allowing the pots to hold water, rice, barley. In time the seemingly imperfect pieces were deemed to be beautiful because of the cracks and chips. Later, artisans would melt gold and silver to seal the cracks ensuring that the works became pieces of art.
Richard Rohr, the Franciscan monk, believes that ‘our human imperfections/brokenness opens us up to receive God’s restorative grace. In his book ‘Falling Upward’, Rohr explores the spirituality of the two halves of life. In the first half of life we are generally clarifying our identity. We ask question such as: What am I good at? What am I passionate about? What values are important to me? Who to I belong to? Who will go with me? Such questions help us determine our identity.
“By the second half of life’, writes Rohr, ‘we’ve been humbled’. We’ve been humbled via poor choices or by circumstances beyond our control. Rohr suggests that by being humbled we become open to asking new and challenging questions: What is really important to me? What do I really believe about God, about life? (Not, what do others tell me I should believe, but what do I really believe to be true?). Knowing what questions to ask and wrestling with the question until an answer is found or an insight gleaned, is the gift that comes with falling on one’s face.
The paradox of growing older is that through our mistakes we can begin to glean wisdom. This surely isn’t true for everyone. I know people well on in years, who cling to childish ways of seeing and being. I know people who cling to bitterness and resentments going back more than 70 years. Such persons remain broken and profoundly wounded, trapped in their past. If they were a pot they would remain fractured and useless.
But for those who do the hard work of growing beyond their pain, for those who wrestle insights and lessons from their brokenness, such persons become a source of inspiration and encouragement. Such restored persons encourage others who also struggle to move beyond a poor choice or painful circumstance. Friends in recovery from an addiction know what I’m talking about. An AA or NA meeting is full of cracked pots that have become beautiful precisely because of the hard work each person does to stay clean and sober. People in recovery know that their restoration to health is due not only to their hard work but also the support of community and their ‘higher power’.
Do you know a broken person who inspires you? Who inspires you because of their imperfection and because of their courage in overcoming difficulties and the hard won wisdom that they’ve acquired? Who are the Kintsugi pots in you life? Are you a cracked pot that has become beautiful too?