Kintsukuroi means “to repair with gold”. When a ceramic pot or bowl breaks, an artisan puts the pieces together using gold or silver lacquer to create something stronger, more beautiful, then it was before. The breaking is not something to hide. It does not mean that the work of art is ruined or without value because it is different than what was planned. Kintsukuroi is a way of living that embraces every flaw and imperfection. Every crack is part of the history of the object and it becomes more beautiful, precisely because it had been broken.
It’s a bit old-fashioned now, but perhaps you’ve heard of someone being called ‘a jeremiah’. A jeremiah is someone who complains all the time or expects things to go disastrously wrong. A jeremiah is a thoroughgoing pessimist whose glass is always half empty.
We get this name from the biblical prophet called Jeremiah, who is also called ‘the weeping prophet’.
When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, God gave him a commission. God said (Jeremiah 1.9–10):
Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak. Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.
It was Jeremiah’s job to prepare the people of Israel for the inevitable destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC, and for the exile that they would face in Babylon once Jerusalem was gone. He was the weeping prophet because he did a lot more uprooting and pulling down, destroying and overthrowing, than building and planting.
But today, we see that Jeremiah could indeed build and plant hope within the people:
The Lord says, ‘The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. Although I was like a husband to them, they did not keep that covenant.
God had made a covenant with Israel when they left Egypt. It was epitomised by the Ten Commandments. God gave the commandments to them as a path to life, but time after time they broke the covenant.
Though God’s heart is broken by the people’s sin, God offers a ‘new’ covenant:
The new covenant that I will make with the people of Israel will be this: I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts.…’
I read once about how some Jewish rabbis read this verse. They asked, Why does God write the law on our hearts? Surely it would be better if God wrote the law within our hearts?
Surely, that would be a better place. What good is it to write the law on the outside of our hearts, and leave the inside untouched?
I like the way these rabbis thought.