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Kintsugi: Embracing the Damage

     Kintsugi is an ancient and venerated Japanese tradition of mending and restoring broken porcelain with lacquer and powdered gold. Dated as early as the 15th Century, the unique method celebrates a vessel’s worn usage and fractures with applications of gold.  Rather than lamenting the loss, grieving the fractures, and discarding a special vessel, the artist gingerly holds and mends the pieces with a brush dipped in gold resin.  The object of attention becomes even more valuable to the owner than the original. The infinitesimal delicacy of the process gently brings beauty as it restores and redeems. The cherished treasure takes on character and unique beauty. The old-made-new vessel demands a high price but is rarely sold.

     In timeless design, we are each unique and eternally valuable. Created in God’s Image, our purpose is to live joyfully for His glory within community. Tragically and all too often through neglect, abuse, assault, and trauma, we break and shut down. Our default mode is to paste over our fractures in unhealthy ways, but never truly repair them. We often sink into despair, self-loathing, depression, anger, and loneliness. Research over the last 25 years has given scientists a new understanding of the resilience of our brains, and with it comes greater hope for healing with the help of therapy and better skilled mental health professionals.

     Refugees fleeing war zones are much on our minds now in 2022.  Our desire to aid them in some way has been heightened, and our compassion is palatable. My Cup of Tea has recently hired a refugee from Sudan, and our city awaits women who will eventually arrive from the war zones of Ukraine.  

     We in Orange Mound realize that we have had a mission field in our midst. Though not fleeing a Russian invasion, most of the women at My Cup of Tea are represented by the harsh statistics of those who have been treated inhumanely by family, neighbors, and strangers. Author and psychologist, Curt Thompson, MD writes in The Soul of Shame, and The Soul of Desire, that to be mentally physiologically healthy, we must be seen, safe, soothed, and secure.    Psychotherapy is not readily available or affordable in marginalized communities.  A supportive community must support the work of compassion and healing. Healing can begin when we are among friends who listen, empathize, embrace, and don’t judge us.  The courageous ladies of Orange Mound know they are seen at The House. They are safe within our fortress of prayer, and they are soothed by the salve of genuine friendships. The assurance of job security with us is unmatched by alternative work experiences in our neighborhood.  A trusted circle of sisters can do God-authored wonders.  There is no waiting room here because God’s golden repairs of the memory of the painful past are daily prescribed through grace, prayer, and being heard within the walls of The House.  He uses the trusted relationships and treasured confidences among our volunteers to redeem and restore.  Kintsugi is underway.  Sisters at My Cup of Tea are the tools, the brush, and the Spirit of God is the artist. Friendship cures the gold leaf applied to the wounds of our friends who have buried their sadness and feel alone in their burdens.

     Harm’s way is a commonly traveled pathway in Orange Mound.   The “exit ramp” is not well marked in poverty and the road is littered with shards and cracked porcelain vessels. Our mission is to be agents of God’s redemption. The beauty and elegance of a life valued, because of and not in spite of the fractures, renews and emboldens us to participate in the mission of Jesus. His call was and remains to find those who know they are broken, need repair, and feel overwhelmed and undervalued. He is saving and brushing gold where we are fractured.  He is healing us with His love and Words of Promise. Our own Kintsugi application is taught daily in the Gospel of Christ. In Him we are permanently seen, safe, soothed, secure AND restored.