by Jeni Grangaard
The Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam, which means, “the healing, repairing and transforming of the world,” suggests that we humans have a shared job to heal the world. All people are called and gifted to enter into the brokenness together to repair what has been broken.
The Japanese have a tradition called Kintsugi. Years ago in Japan, beautiful ceramics were created and used. But ceramics are fragile and are easily broken and were too expensive to replace. First, broken pieces were put back together with metal staples, but such stapling diminished the beauty of the piece. The solution? Kintsugi, the practice of binding together broken pieces with a lacquer made golden by fine dust. Bound together in paths of gold, it was thought that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.
We also see examples of this in Scripture.
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly….you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. (Isaiah 58 )
The Prophet Isaiah speaks of reconciliation in terms of repairing the breach. Such work is done by loosing the bonds of injustice, letting the oppressed go free, sharing bread with the hungry, housing the homeless poor, clothing the naked. We notice how this work goes right into the brokenness of our lives and world. Only then, Isaiah says, the light shall break forth like the dawn, and our healing shall spring up quickly.
So often in life we want to hide our imperfections. We are bombarded with commercials for creams to cover up wrinkles, makeup to cover up blemishes, and clothes to cover up our size. We are taught to hide.
On our social media sites, we post only our lives highlights, giving the impression that everything is alright all of the time. Truth be told, however, life has its seasons of ups and downs. Time and experience leave marks on our bodies. Our lives witness to a world that is blessed and broken. So we hide. Behind status updates and edited photos, our number of friends and followers.
I wonder what would happen if we could tell the whole story– that even when life is good it isn’t perfect, and that sometimes the world is a hard place to call home? Would we be stuck in despair, conscious of the weight that holds us down? Or, would we be moved to courage and the bonds of camaraderie, understanding that brokenness isn’t exclusive to us?
We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, a long tradition of vulnerability that leads to wholeness.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5)
St. Paul writes to the community in Corinth after a conflict, going right to the problem instead of shying away from it (albeit through a letter). Paul writes of reconciliation, a bringing together of things that have been separated, shattered, split.
We like to think of reconciliation in beautiful terms, and indeed it is. When we skip to the end and see the finished product, we forget that reconciliation actually presupposes brokenness. Reconciliation goes deep into the dark heart of brokenness to restore what has been ripped apart or torn asunder.
Reconciliation is a practice in vulnerability, a trust that two disparate sides can come back together. When we are vulnerable, when we acknowledge the ways in which our lives have been fractured, we allow the light of Christ to seep through our broken bodies and lives and we begin to be healed: in our relationship with ourselves, with God, with others, and with the world. “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn” (Isaiah 58:8).
The Rev. Jeni Grangaard is grateful to be the pastor at Glyndon Lutheran Church (ELCA) in northwestern Minnesota. Travel and study have greatly impacted her life and faith, as has good music, great friends, and a husband who has been a lovely partner in this adventure called life.
1. What are the pieces of your life that could use some mending?
2. How might the gift of vulnerability lead you to reconciliation with another, or yourself?
3. What in your life is more beautiful for having been broken?
This is beautiful. Thank you so much for this proclamation and it is exactly what I needed to hear today.
I believe that mending needs to come after acknowledging the suffering. That suffering is something that we are all so afraid of, we don’t want to go through the treatment but only find the cure for our pain because in that suffering we are not 100%. We are completely vulnerable and that is terrifying. Also being broken does not mean that we are weak or that it will make us stronger after the fact. Being broken and continuing to live in that brokenness is true strength and I want to thank you for asking about the beauty found in brokenness for that reason.
I live as a broken woman who is not completely mended. I am shattered with some pieces that are too small to find and I will never be put back together perfectly, but I believe that those cracks will be filled by others who are just as broken. In acknowledging that we live as broken people and putting our pieces together will make us all the more beautiful.