This past weekend, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, there was yet another mass shooting. This time taking the lives of 26, and wounding 20 more, while they gathered to worship on Sunday morning.
As I listened to the news of this latest tragedy, I sat, unsure what to feel. I’m angry that this keeps happening. Confused by what would lead someone to such an action. Broken hearted for the families that are now incomplete. Fearful for how I can ever hope to keep my daughter safe in a world where this is a thing that happens, and a bit lost for what I should do in response.
The first such event that I remember impacting me was the school shooting in Columbine on April 20, 1999. The media covered the story for weeks, and it affected everyone profoundly. But it feels different now. We’re less than a week out, and conversation and media coverage is already fading.
How did we get to a place where the murder of 26 people doesn’t feel surprising? When did we resign ourselves to a perspective that this is just the way things are?
For me, I believe God made us for more than this. I believe that God has a plan for restoration and redemption. Although it’s hard to see it on days like this, I believe that work is already happening. I trust that God’s imagination for restoration is far more beautiful and expansive than I could ever comprehend. It gives me hope and keeps me moving. But if faith without works is dead, what can I do to participate in God’s ongoing redemptive work?
There is a Japanese practice known as Kintsukuroi (or Kintsugi). It’s the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold or other precious metals. The result is beautiful. The artist fills the spaces between the broken pieces with something strong and valuable. Rather than try to hide the brokenness, the result acknowledges the beauty in the healing and restoration process.
I think this art provides a model for the restorative work I can participate in. Pretending that brokenness doesn’t exist, or trying to hide the scars, is a disservice to the courage and hard work it takes to recover from tragedy and loss. But filling the spaces with something precious – working for healing and restoration through love, generosity and kindness – can help us participate in transforming what is broken into something that is remade. Reimagining the scars of our experiences as part of what makes us beautiful and unique.
Kintsukuroi doesn’t pretend we aren’t broken. It also doesn’t try to suggest we’re better now because we were broken. It does remind us that brokenness is part of our story, not the end of it. We can and will be remade. It also suggests the ways we were broken will influence and shape how our restored selves will look. Brokenness does not diminish our value or beauty.
So, while our world and our friends, neighbours, and even ourselves are broken, our participation in God’s redemptive work can look like acts of love. We can use generous and kind words to help each other work through the pain. Not diminishing pain, not pretending it never happened, but pressing into it and feeling it. We fill the spaces left by tragedy with community and compassion. We can beautifully patch each other together until we are finally restored in God’s perfect restoration.
Brokenness is not a good thing, but it isn’t the last thing either.