A year ago I had major limb reconstruction surgery, where I had my leg broken in two places. The journey of recovery has been more difficult than I expected, but has made me really reflect on what the most important things in life are. When something is broken in this day and age we throw it away. We rarely take the time to mend anything, it’s quicker just to get a new replacement because things are not built to last in the throwaway culture of today.
Recently I bought some super glue. Generally, superglue is used to fix something that is broken – the idea is to attempt to glue the broken object back together so you can’t see the cracks. But then I came across Kintsugi art which translated from Japanese means “Golden Joinery”. Kintsugi art is where a broken object is repaired using a gold powder mixed into the glue so that instead of hiding the cracks, it makes a feature of the cracks. Arguably the broken object becomes more beautiful than before it was broken. A beauty that comes from the brokenness.
Can this be true of our lives?
Sometimes it is hard to accept our brokenness, I mean how honest are we? We put on that smile and pretend everything is fine but deep down we are hurting, everything is not fine. It’s tough, very tough, yet for some reason we feel we have got to keep it together. We still have a tendency to show and communicate the highlights reel, yet that’s exactly what it is – highlights, not real life. It’s only when we admit to these things that the healing process can start.
In March my friend Andy Flanagan and I did our 2nd “When Faith Gets Shaken Tour”. We met so many incredible people who had the most heart breaking stories to tell.
To be honest I haven’t enjoyed feeling broken, it feels vulnerable. Yet I have discovered that you start to worry less about the things you used to worry about. Then something beautiful can start to happen. We begin to worry less about appearance – not just the way you look but the way you want people to see you. Your ego dies a bit as you realise true relationship is far more important. Being right all the time can lose its grip – what’s the point if you can’t love properly?
Or as Brene Brown puts it, “The broken-hearted are the bravest among us – they had the courage to love.”
At the end of the WFGS show I talked about the Cross of Ground Zero. A couple of days after Sept 11th as they were looking for more bodies they saw, a 17-foot-long crossbeam, weighing at least two tonnes, that was thrust at a vertical angle in the hellish wasteland; like a cross. Father Brian, the local priest, persuaded city officials to allow a crew of volunteer union labourers to lift it out of the wreckage by crane and mount it on a concrete pedestal. Sometimes victims’ families came to pray. The congregations grew from 25 or 35 to 200 and 300. Different people from different religions, different ages, different races all would come and pray at the cross. “My cross is not a symbol of religion,” Father Brian said, “It’s a symbol of faith.”
As we came to the end of the show we invited people to write on a post-it note situations, people or issues they felt they have been carrying for too long. Mostly people who struggle with anxiety and depression are not weak people, they have just tried to be strong for too long. People walked to the front and stuck their post-it note on the cross. Some people cried, some hugged family members, some stood in silence, and some rushed back to their seats. It was a small symbolic act saying to God “I need you to help me in my brokenness, please start to put me back together”.
When life gets so confusing, the cross is the place I have to head back to. It’s not that all my questions start to rush away – what I find happens is that some of the questions become less important and I know that I am not alone in my fears. I am grateful I am not being thrown away and deemed useless, but being repaired through honesty, community and prayer transformation.
Suffering can make us softer, kinder and ultimately more human. The people I met on the tour were simply beautiful people. Real beauty is seen in the eyes of those who have experienced too much pain but have chosen to love instead of hate, forgive instead of bearing a grudge.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Many years ago at Greenbelt Diane, my wife, and I heard a singer called Julie Miller. She had a voice that sounded like Cindy Lauper. Her testimony was one of how God’s love had healed some very broken parts of her life. What she had been through was horrible and though it wasn’t my favourite style of music, there was something so attractive and inspiring about this lady. Diane and I loved her! I believe God is in the restoration business and wants us to live a life where we feel whole. Here’s one of her songs.
So I now have my own Kintsugi bowl in my office. Diane got it for me after the operation. When I look at it I am reminded of hope; I am reminded I no longer have to hide my scars because they have made me what I am today. The bowl came with a little card that said:
“When we view our lives as broken or even shattered, we begin to understand that no matter the trauma, despair, hurt, fear, abuse, failure, addiction, disease, and even death, our scars are just part of us. Each time we fix ourselves, the new beginning makes us stronger. Our life bonds are reinforced through mending. Those breaks are a place for beauty to transpire. We are more beautiful for being broken”
We are now taking bookings for the final When Faith Gets Shaken tour for March 2018, if you are interested in booking myself and Andy please get in touch with Lorna.Dobbie@xlp.org.uk