Broken things

Handles on mugs, arms off a broken toy, cracked plates, eyes for a teddy bear, heirloom Christmas ornaments, broken furniture – I’ve spent some time over the years gluing broken things. Trying to restore something to its former state can often be challenging requiring a good bit of creativity and a large dose of patience. Thank goodness for glue!

Glue is an amazing thing. It can take something that’s in pieces and restore it to what it was or sometimes make it into something better or more beautiful for the brokenness restored. The Japanese have an art form called Kintsukuroi or Kintsugi which repairs broken ceramics with metal dust mixed with epoxy creating something esteemed more beautiful for it history or past.

I recently read a story about an antique chair valued for its beauty, rarity and unique design. Many years before it had become broken and its pieces scattered in a large pile of rubbish.  A young woman came by, noticed the pieces and patiently collected them all. She took them to be repaired. Only then was it discovered that it was one of a limited number of chairs made by a master craftsman and it was extremely valuable.  Painstakingly the chair was pieced back together, revarnished and made whole again with even more character for the experience of having been broken to pieces.

 I remember when we first moved to Samoa many years ago. I had spent most of my life up ‘til then in America – “The Land of Things.”  There it was so easy and affordable to replace something broken. I quickly learned that in Samoa things were not so easily replaced. I am grateful for a frugal mom who would repair things too, rather than throw it out and buy a new one.  I learned from her example the value of repair. I learned the old adage, “Fix it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without.” In the Samoa of the past I had to become very inventive to fix things that had broken because a simple, affordable replacement was not available.

Samoa has changed over the years. With the influx of more goods into Samoa it’s now so much easier to replace broken things at affordable prices. It has become easy to throw things away. We live a world that is designed to make it easy and desirable to throw things away. We are what could be called the disposable generation.

But where does our disposable world leave us?

We have become so accustomed to discarding broken things and then seeking out new to replace the old, that sometimes broken lives and people become discarded too. Cast by the wayside considered valueless or not worth our time. We can even feel that way about ourselves, that we have lost our value in our brokenness. We can feel beaten down, worn out, broken into a million pieces. We can feel so distorted and chipped away by our life experiences that sometimes we forget what we were to begin with.

Like the beautiful Kintsugi ceramics and that broken antique chair, there is still inherent value in broken things and the experience of being  broken and repaired leaves a piece of art more valuable for its history. Our lives can be the same – made into something more beautiful by the difficulties we go through.

Let’s change the way we think of broken things. A cup is still a cup even if it is broken or cracked. A chair is still a chair even if it’s in pieces. Doctors have found that a broken bone once healed properly is stronger in the place where it was previously broken than the rest of the bone. Brokenness is not an end but a new beginning. It is an opportunity to be remade, refurbished, repaired and often enhanced in the process.

Repairing breaks takes time, patience and in the matter of hearts and lives, it can also take a great deal of courage. I ran across a quote that goes like this, “Perhaps strength doesn’t reside in having never been broken, but in the courage required to grow strong in the broken places.”

Let’s find ways to repair and recycle broken things. Let’s look at the broken pieces in our lives as opportunities to grow and improve.  Let’s look at the broken pieces of others lives with compassion and offer to help be the “glue” that binds up the broken hearts and lives.

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