Some of the best memories of my childhood revolve around my maternal grandmother, who lived in Texas. She was loving and gentle and generous. Always smiling, she worked from dawn til late each night cooking and cleaning for her family. My cousins and I were the focus of her affection and attention whenever we visited her. Having lived through the Great Depression, my grandmother was frugal and thrifty in a way that few of us are these days. She never discarded anything and if something broke, she fixed it rather than replacing it. After she died, we sorted through her closets and found boxes filled with her “salvaged” treasures. At the time, we thought it was funny that she’d held on to what we considered to be junk. Now, more than 35 years later, I appreciate that trait of hers a great deal. She could have invented the “reduce, re-use, recycle” campaign.
There’s something to be said for fixing broken things. After all, we’re each one of us broken in one way or another, or even in a dozen ways. We live in a fallen world, a world that is at once incredibly beautiful and heartbreakingly wounded. Sort of like you and me. Our Creator loved us enough to become one of us so that He could be our way out of the darkness of sin. In this first week of Advent, we’re looking forward to the coming of that Light. And so Advent is a good time to examine our broken places, because it is our sins that He cam to heal. What in my own heart cries out for that healing? What relationship in my life is most broken? Who have I sinned against? What parts of my soul do I withhold from The Lord? What part of me do I hide from His Light?
When we allow Christ into our brokenness His grace heals and transforms us. We become a “new creation” in Christ (II Cor. 5:17). We see God’s healing hand at work in our hurting places. Rather than throwing us away because we were broken by sin, Jesus uses that brokenness for His good purpose. The Japanese art of “Kintsugi” is a way of recognizing the value of what is broken. When a cup or bowl is broken, the artisan doesn’t attempt to hide the damage, but rather they enhance it. The broken pieces are joined with glue and then a layer of gold is applied to highlight the repair. The object is made even more beautiful and cherished all the more because it has been used and “damaged.”
In Advent, we prepare ourselves for the coming of Emmanuel, “God with us.” It’s a time of prayer and reflection, of hopeful waiting, of self-examination. We can ask God to help us see ourselves honestly and to lead us to repent of our sins. In confession, God’s mercy is like the process of Kintsugi. We ask for His healing and we commit to turning away from our sins. His love is the gold that transforms our wounds into His glory. God finds treasure in our willingness to humbly ask for His mercy and healing. He is a God of paradox, after all. The Creator-King Who comes to us as a penniless, powerless baby in a manger; the Nazarene carpenter Whose death opened the doors of Heaven. He is the Lamb of God, born to be slain so that you and I can, like St. Paul, ask: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (I Cor. 15:55-57). When we lose ourselves, we find Him. When we decrease, He can increase (John 3:30). This Advent, let the Lord embrace your wounds and heal them with His mercy and love. Before you dress the tree in silver and gold, remember the broken cup and the golden repair that transforms it into a treasure. You aren’t something to be thrown away—you are a beloved child of God. Allow His grace to make you whole.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”