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The Gilded Broken

Scars, failures, and wounds are things to hide, to be brushed under the rug like so much shattered porcelain.

At least that's a lie I've fallen prey to one too many times.

The shame of admitting my shortcomings and failings causes me a soul level pain, like the searing of an iron brand to mar and mark the occasion. I've found no shortage of unhealthly mechanisms rooted in self pity that I gravitate toward, to deflect and shield from the crushing weight of mistakes I've made. I've even found ways to blame myself for the deep hurts inflicted by circumstance or others or just by the world at large, believing that somehow it my fault. This deflection also has led to an unfortunate reflection of pain onto those I love, as well as to my children mimicking this response. (If you want a reality check on yourself, then have kids. They are nothing if not an unflattering and terribly accurate mirror. )

There is a desperation cry I think everyone feels at some point, that asks 'who will repair these broken pieces?' It often feels rhetorical, already having resigned that in fact no one will.

I wonder whether this might ring true for you. If so, you should know it's not all doom and gloom. It's also not as simple as leaning into a lipstick-on-a-hog kind of optimism, nor is it as unnecessarily burdensome and perplexing as cold hard pessimism breathes out an icy 'I told you so.'

There's been no shortage of writings on and efforts to unravel the nature of how we deal with pain, loss and failure. From over-extended adages like 'what doesn't kill you makes stronger,' to 'no pain no gain', there are plenty of quotable coping mechanisms.

But what if these aren't always true? What if you are made weaker, at least for a time, by the hard walls we crash up against and the battles to which we must yield or taste the bitterness of raw defeat? What if you see no gain and no providence on the other side of the devastation and desolation and isolation that can feel so pervasive in life?

Here's a wild question: What if all of that is ok, because it's all going to be ok?

When there is a shattering, there must first be a recognition and radical acceptance that yes, that just happened. A part of you fell to the floor like a piece of priceless piece of pottery meant to be handled with care--your dreams for the future and life's ambition perhaps--broken into pieces. You can look away, wince, clench so hard that your ears block out the echoing silence of the seconds after the crash and try to make believe it didn't happen, but eventually you have to recognize that it did. Otherwise there is no way forward.

Acceptance after all is the first step to forward motion.

Still, it's a terrible thing, to look down upon the shattered remnants of your efforts, a relationship, or a battle lost. Let's not pretend any different.

There is a Japanese art known as kitsugi, in which areas of breakage in pottery are mended with a laquer dusted and mixed with precious metals like silver, platinum and gold. The first thing to note about this kind of repair is that it's not trying to disguise the damage or pretend it never happened. If anything, the pronounced signature sheen of gold in particular--constantly and consistently valuable throughout all our history--draws attention to the break, and thereby the history of the piece. It all stems from the philosophy of embracing what is flawed or imperfect.

I am nothing if not flawed and imperfect, and I'll bet if you do an honest inventory of yourself and your history you'll say the same. But counter to the way we often treat these flaws and imperfections, they are to be highlighted, even celebrated and accepted, as what makes us who we are and marks where we've been and what we've come through.

By being repaired with literal gold, the pottery is also made all the more valuable. There is no practical reason to dust the laquer that would adhere broken pieces back together any better. It is only done to adorn and to pronounce that not only does the piece have value still, but it is worth all the more. It may not be physically any stronger in it's integrity, but it is inherently more valuable and precious because of it.

These snaking jagged gilded lines are a roadmap of our past so that we would remember the times when we fell short, when others hurt us, or when circumstances crushed us. The one thing all of those instances have in common is that they require an immense measure of grace: for ourselves, for others, and for the world.

It's as if grace itself is the gold dust in the laquer that continues to bind us together in spite of the brokenness of the past.

I can't help but be reminded of 1 Peter 5:10, which says that "the God of all grace, who called to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

So when you're thrown to the lions, when your pushed to your limit and beyond to the point of breaking, just remember that the power of grace is the same power mimicked by this ancient art of kitsugi, turning the blackest moments to gold in the aftermath.

Indeed, I would wager that the fabled 'midas touch' for the soul is the simple and brutally honest touch of radical acceptance followed by an equal measure of radical grace.

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