Once I sat down and started writing this, I began to feel it flesh out like a part two for a previous post I did about a passage in Hosea that Jefferson Bethke commented on, so that’s how I’m going to treat this – as a follow up that gives some absolution to our walks in the wilderness. What happens when we return from those excursions? What do we do with those conversations with God when the darkness of the wilderness sets behind a new day for us to live? What purpose do those scars have now that we’ve come back to the real world? I think the overarching question transitions from how do we allow the Lord to point out and process them, to how we allow people in on the stories behind them. Who do they impact?
Keeping with the theme of commentary from Jefferson Bethke, I recently watched an online sermon of him speaking at Pastor Craig Groeschel’s church in Oklahoma City about the concept of Biblical healing. Bethke spoke about how scars are our open books that leaf through chapters of screw-ups, pitfalls, and ultimately end in Jesus’ redemption. He made this brilliant analogy for how God illuminates those scars that caught me hook, line, and sinker, but I’ll return to that soon.
At this point I’m waist deep in this recovery process wading through our Friday night Ceebrate Recovery curriculum. In the closing chapters of our material, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church calls this process of paying it forward, Recycling Pain. Think about the process of recycling – you take what’s considered a “waste product” and somehow make it into a useful resource. The catch is that Jesus doesn’t consider us wasted products, even though we consider our character defects as undesirable. Romans 5:8 says, “When we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” For example, some of the relationships in my life that I severed have been the result of wanting to leave parts of my life behind me, thinking that time and separation will heal those wounds. While the separation was healthy, the clocks have ticked too long for me to ignore many of them anymore. I grew weary from running from my problems, because every exit door led me deeper into isolation from the people I cared about most. Facing the fact that I had become calloused is part of the harsh reality of allowing myself to be in God’s repair. In fact, Paul says in Romans 12, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” That’s an imperative, not a second or third string play option. While I won’t get into details, I’ve recently had some therapeutic conversations with people about my shortcomings as my way of being at peace with people in situations that are laced with a lot of unnamed tension. I used to think that those relationships were wasted. Unable to salvage any of its raw materials. I began to wonder for a while…
“Can I really be whole again after all I’ve done?”
In this sermon, Jefferson Bethke talked about an ancient Japanese art form, called Kintsugi – literally translated as “gold joinery” that is also namesake for the latest album from famed indie rock outfit, Death Cab For Cutie (maybe I’ll review that, soon ;)). As I began to research, Japanese culture has high esteem for the things that are broken and put back together. To them, things like furniture with cracks, splits, and rot in the wood are seen to have character and experience. Every person that has sat and conversations that have taken place on them are intricate parts of a story these objects tell. It seems kind of funny when we contrast that to a westernized culture that places a consumerist value in the newest gadget. The old is left to waste with the memories latched to it. As Bethke began to explain, Kintsugi is when someone would mix gold and silver dust with a strong adhesive and put pottery back together, kind of like this…
“The actual places where it broke is exactly where you’re eye’s drawn. It’s this place of beauty and glory. I think that’s an interesting way of thinking about Jesus…. might Jesus be the one who says, I not only want to heal you, but sometimes the very place that you’re broken and I’ve healed you, become the most glorious parts about you.”
You feel those goosebumps, too?
Those wounds that God exposes to us in those journeys through the wilderness are usually the very things that tell the best stories about where we are, now. We may night realize it immediately and it may even take years to finally arrive at a point of realization. 2nd Corinthians 12:9 says, But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I actually used to have zero desire to work with those who had addictions. Somehow I figured I could “get over this,” leave my addiction behind me, and move on with something new – as if this piece of me would be trashed, never to be recycled, and left to rot. As it turns out, my chinks in the armor have become the places that can only be protected by Jesus. When I began to look in the rearview mirror and allow the Lord to mend those relationships I was so afraid to face, they’ve actually become vignettes that fit into this personal meta narrative of the Lord’s redemption in my life. They’re joys I get to celebrate and know that reconciliation is the result of God healing those third degree burns with gauze and grace – the gold laced within our brokenness.
The brokenness in our life experiences are not in vain. They didn’t go to waste. Our stories are unique. They give us an angle that no one else can fully understand, but people can relate to. People can relate when they see God in the cracks of our broken pots, plates, relationships, job situations, and spiritual lives. “Me too” are two of the most powerful words we can say to someone else. What are those things that you can allow God to use as the gold and silver lining? Though they may feel like salt in a wound to say or confess, you may be surprised what happens when the Lord uses those scars to illustrate the best stories of His work.