The welcome (and unwelcome) transformation of healing

Kintsugi is a beautiful art that not only restores usefulness to broken things, but it does so in ways that add beauty and value with its seams of gold or other precious metals. This combination of repair, restoration, and art can transform a common cup or bowl into a prized possession.

One of Kenetha's kintsugi-style circle pendants in a 30 mm setting.

One of Kenetha’s kintsugi-style circle pendants in a 30 mm setting.

But what it cannot do is return the broken piece to its original state. It is now unalterably and unarguably something new, even though it retains most (if not all) of the original material and fulfills the same function.

The same is true for us. The healing of our broken places restores us, and it adds beauty, richness, and depth to our lives, but we are never again the same as we were before we were wounded.

This is very easy to see as I make my kintsugi-style circle pendants. After I’ve made the original circle of polymer clay and cured it, I have to freeze it in order to make it brittle enough to break it.

Because of this brittleness, it is not uncommon for there to be tiny shards that are formed as part of the breaking process. These shards are so small that they cannot effectively be worked into the repair, so they are discarded before I even begin the repair work. This can be seen in the final piece in places where the repair line widens somewhere along the crack or along the edge of the circle.

Once I perform the repair and re-cure it, the addition of the gold or silver clay that makes the repair means that the repaired piece has been distorted from its original form. With the heart-shaped pendants, this is seldom an issue since a little careful shaping and some sanding at the finish can bring it back to a “close enough” heart-shape to pass.

The circles, however, are not so easily approximated since they must fit into a fixed setting. The original circle is formed to fit precisely into the setting, so the addition of the repair material means the finished piece no longer fits into the place where it belongs. I must carefully sand down the edges in order to make it fit again while keeping its round shape.

This, too, is much like life.

When I have been so deeply wounded in some way that I feel broken by what has happened to me, healing does restore me and make me functional again. It does add beauty and richness and depth. But I am never again the same.

There are always pieces of me—often in the form of beliefs or habits or relational patterns—that broke off and are never re-attached.

I never quite fit back into the confines of the life I had before the brokenness and healing happened. I am changed. I am no longer quite who I was, even though much of me is still recognizable as the person I used to be.

It is not unusual to find the people around us trying to sand away at our edges to try to force-fit us back into the place we used to fit into. While they may celebrate our healing, our changed shape is not always quite so welcome. They may be upset at finding that there are pieces of who we once were that are no longer there in our new, healed form.

In fact, we ourselves may grieve for those lost pieces and mourn that we can no longer squeeze into our old, comfortable confines. It can be incredibly tempting to try to shave off parts of ourselves and pretend that those lost pieces still exist—both for our own comfort and for that of others.

Unlike my polymer clay pieces, which can be (relatively) easily shaped with some good sandpaper, we are not so easy to re-shape back into our old forms. The pieces that are lost are truly lost. We truly are not the same shape we used to be. We can pretend otherwise, but we know that we no longer fit.

The journey of healing is one that restores us to life and one that demands that we step outside the confines of who we were into a bigger space. This is part of what makes healing so challenging. It never leaves us as we were.

Can you think of places in your life where healing from a deep brokenness caused you to be so changed that you no longer fit into the confines of who you used to be? Is there healing happening in your life now that is reshaping you? In what ways are you embracing the change that brings even when it’s hard to let go of what used to be?

by Kenetha Stanton. 

This essay was first published on Kenetha Stanton’s blog A Kintsugi Life, and is republished with her permission. 

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