Deep in Sonoma County, California, a potter named Hugh Hope paints invisible designs on the surface of a platter. It looks odd to the casual observer, this artist who sits alone with his vessel, painting patterns that no one can see. The magic of Hope's work, however, is revealed when he begins the second step of the process.
Once the timing is right, he dips his brush into a bit of red iron oxide and gently grazes the platter. The scarlet hue spreads across the surface, coloring the vessel, but, more importantly, revealing the secret design that Hope painted with his invisible wax. The designs rest quietly on the surface, unseen by the average observer, until the master potter applies the color. The iron oxide suddenly reveals the potter's artwork in all its beauty.
So often when we are on the Potter's wheel, it is easy to look at other vessels and wonder what God is doing with us. We can see Him working, but it does not seem like anything is happening. It is easy to get impatient and even disheartened. Sometimes we start to question what He is doing in our lives.
But the work of the Master Potter is not always apparent on the surface. He works with deft hands and skilled practice.So many of His most beautiful designs are the ones He creates with invisible wax, painting intricately and invisibly, until the moment He applies the iron oxide, and suddenly our eyes are opened to the masterpiece He has been crafting us to be.
Far away in the Land of the Rising Sunlives lives a school of Japanese potters who specialize in the art of kintsugi (golden journey). Their art form does not focus on forming perfect pottery with beautiful patterns or shapes, but on repairing broken pottery to highlight the journey of each piece. The beauty of their work is in the brokenness. After gathering up the broken pieces, they restore the vessel with gold, silver, or platinum lacquer. They use the most costly minerals on earth to bind the broken places.
The beauty of a kintsugi vessel is in the striking maps of its broken places.
The art of kintsugi tells us so much about how God sees brokenness. One of the most beautiful passages in the Bible on the topic of brokenness is Psalm 51, wherein David the king falls on his face before God in repentance. He has just realized how much he has failed God, his people, and himself. He stands before his Lord, utterly broken. But in the midst of his brokenness, he lifts his voice in faith, declaring,
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart— these, O God, You will not despise" (17).
Indeed, God did not turn David away simply because he had failed. He repaired and restored him, just as He continues to do with us today. Brokenness does not exclude us from God's love, power, or plan. He simply asks that, instead of trying to hide it in the shadows, that we bring it before Him so that He can do what He does best: lovingly repair us, not hiding the cracked and chipped places, but showcasing them in beauty so that our lives will forever testify of Him.