Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with precious metals. It’s something that I’ve been kind of obsessed with ever since I first found out about it. There’s a whole section in my book about it, in fact. It’s one of those concepts that you can’t really believe when you first hear it. It feels too mythic to be true. Like knowing that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were friends. The realist mind can’t quite believe that the universe would be that poetic. And yet it is.
Because it keeps showing up.
I’ve been reading “Chasing Slow” by Erin Loechner. Slowly. It’s one of those books I knew immediately I’d have to let myself digest. The design of the book alone caught me. I flipped through it, feeling the paper between my fingers, smelling it, (yes, I huff books. It’s my dark, dirty secret.), and I came across a photo. It was of a ceramic bowl, fairly nondescript, except for the gold crack running through it.
I knew what it was immediately, and I didn’t have to read the chapter it was in to know why the picture was there. I hadn’t even started the book and I knew I had to read it.
I wasn’t disappointed, either. Last week, I finally got to the chapter I had been waiting for, with the picture of the pot, and I can’t tell you off the top of my head what the author was saying about it, I only know it spoke right to me.
It’s my last few days in New York. This time next week I’ll be in Minneapolis. This time next week I’ll be homeless and jobless again, if for a short time. I have prospects, don’t worry. But it’s the start of something new and different, and I don’t know exactly how to not have anxiety about it. Even when I’m on an upswing, when things feel like they are coming together, I have a slight panic. I can’t not worry sometimes. It’s like my brain doesn’t know another gear to be in.
It’s made worse by the fact that big, cross-country moves have been a mixed bag, at best, for me. They hold a lot of promise, but there’s so much wrapped up in them that I can’t help but wonder: what if this time isn’t any different?
There are parts of me that still haven’t forgiven myself for Atlanta. So much of my failure I have always and only seen as that: failure. The parts where I screwed up, when I could/should have done better. And even as I’m looking forward and wondering if this will be yet another one, Kintsugi shows up. And reminds me what failure does.
I was talking with a friend this week who had an attitude towards the whole endeavor that I was honestly jealous of. She told me simply “why not?” Why not go ahead and move across the country and try and see what happens? I wanted to believe. I still want to. Because deep down I know she’s right.
I’ve only ever seen failure as failure, as my fault. I could never see it as anything more, and I definitely never considered how it might be good for me. And then there’s a book and a broken pot, and I’m reminder of what failure is.
A crack of gold.
That’s the truth of Kintsugi, the breathtakingly beautiful art of it. The cracks make it better. A pot is a pot. Clay, it’s value set. Shattered, it becomes worthless. Trash. But remade, put back together, and it becomes valuable again, more than it was before.
I see my failures as cracks, something that mars my value, but Kintsugi says things can be remade, not despite their flaws but because of them.
I have a crack of gold, and knowing that makes this next step a little less scary. Because it might be a failure. It might be hard, it might hurt. I might not implode like Atlanta, but I might leave with a scar or two.
And yet I know they will be golden. And I have to stop and tell God: “I’m scared, but I’m going anyway. I’m uncertain, but I’m going anyway.
All I can ask is that you bless it.”
And I will come out golden. The cracks will be part of the narrative.
The story told by grace. A story I don’t have to be afraid to live through.