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Making Broken Things Beautiful

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are [beautiful] in the broken places.”

Where Ernest Hemingway’s novel A Farewell to Arms reads “strong” I’ve substituted the word “beautiful.” That’s because I’m going to talk about the resurrection. And the resurrection makes broken things beautiful.

Resurrection is the climax of the story of God’s love. Let’s look at Matthew’s account of Jesus’ resurrection and I think you’ll see what I mean.

In the predawn light of the third day, the two Marys—Mary Magdalene and the other Mary—crept through the fading shadows to see Jesus’ tomb. An angel was loitering at the scene, perched on the stone that he had rolled away from the entrance.

He said, “You are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised.” (Matthew 28: 5b-6) It was a lot for those two to take in. It’s a lot for me to take in, to be honest.

The angel is saying something like this: If you’re looking for Jesus’ battered corpse, you’re just not going to find it. It’s not here. It’s not anywhere. His corpse hasn’t been moved. It’s been transformed. Jesus isn’t a corpse anymore.

You can catch up with him in Galilee. But don’t go looking for the pre-crucifixion Jesus. Once you lay your eyes on him, you can see for yourself. Nails leave a mark, after all. Just like everything else. What Jesus endured made him who he is. But none of that disfigures him. Love has been at work. God has mended him.

The wounds of the cross are woven together with all that unique stuff that makes Jesus, well, Jesus: bouncing on his mother’s knee, eating supper with outcasts, touching the untouchable, and walking the dusty roads of Galilee with Peter and John and Mary Magdalene.

Love has done its finest, most surprising work yet. Love has mended the fragile, battered body of Jesus.

In her recent book Hallelujah Anyway, Anne Lamott compared grace, that is to say God’s love, to the Japanese art form Kintsugi. So, I think it’s an especially apt illustration for the resurrection.

Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery. Artisans mend the chips and cracks of bowls and saucers, pitchers and jars using lacquer mixed with gold dust.

Initially you might assume that the artists are trying to disguise the damage by covering it with gold leaf. But these artists aren’t trying to hide anything. They realize that the gold-infused lacquer will draw the eye to the very places where the object has been cracked.

Their intention is to highlight the broken places. Beauty emerges from the distinctive broken places of each individual object.

The Greek ideal of beauty dominates our Western minds. We prize flawless harmony and proportion. From our perspective, flaws diminish a thing’s beauty.

Not so for the Japanese.

Wear and cracks and breaks tell a thing’s story. Beauty is not found in something’s original, pristine condition. On the contrary, beauty emerges from a life lived. And living always comes with some wear and no small amount of damage.

Rather than hide the broken places from us, Japanese artists want us to see how these fragile things have been lovingly mended. That kind of love proves that an object is too precious to be discarded, no matter how much damage it has endured.

As I mentioned earlier, resurrection is the climax of the story of love.

In the beginning, love brings into being a universe of tender, fragile things.

Love abides with these delicate, vulnerable creatures as they grow and mature. As they pass from youthful powers to fading sight, hairy ears, and turkey necks. As they stumble and gasp for breath and howl from the pain of wounded flesh and shattered hearts.

God never intended for the frail things of this world to retain the pristine condition of a newborn. The living God means for us to live. And living inevitably brings with it wear and breakage.

And so, love reaches its climax by mending fragile things. That’s what we mean by resurrection.

In the resurrection, God mends the shattered Jesus. And in Jesus’ resurrection, we see the promise that we too may be mended.

Now, of course, the resurrection points to life after this life. When we breathe our last, our life—our whole life—will continue on the far shore of eternity. Mended.

But that mending gets its start already right here on planet earth. Sometimes it happens in three days. Sometimes it happens in three hours or three weeks or three decades.

Christ mends the wounds inflicted on us by strangers and lovers, by family and friends, even the blunt force trauma we’ve managed to give ourselves.

None of this is magic. The really big mending projects take a lot of time and no small amount of cooperation by us. And if the truth be told, a lot of our most important mending will continue when we pass from this life to the next.

And so, in the meantime, Jesus would very much like it if we could give ourselves and each other a break. We are all terribly fragile and already more than a little damaged.

God loves each of us too much to even think about discarding us. In the resurrection, we see that God eventually mends fragile things like you and me. And the result will be breathtakingly beautiful.

This essay is drawn from my book A Resurrection Shaped Life. Click here to learn more or grab a copy.

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