Friday, January 8, 2016

Kintsukuroi: Finding Beauty in the Breakdown

I've always been the type of person that has a lot of questions. I like to know how things work and why the world is the way it is. I like the process of contemplating and attempting to understand other people as well. Finally finding out "why" -- or feeling like I'm close to figuring it out -- is really one of the only ways I'm able to make peace with some of the things that bother me, especially as they relate to other people.

That said, all this Bible study, and Mass, and prayer has made me realize that I have a lot of questions for God. I'm not talking about the questions most people have either -- like why he allows things like war, and famine, and premature death. My questions are more personal in nature. They relate to my own life, who I was as a person, and who I am now.

If you asked me to give you one reason why I rejected the idea of trying to develop a closer relationship with God for so much of my life, I'd tell you that it's because I was sure he didn't like me. I felt that if God cared so much about me the way he's supposed to, my life would have been better than it has been. I wouldn't have had to struggle so hard. My parents would have been more accepting of me and more interested in me as a person. They would have been considerably more interested in making an investment in the lives of their children than they were. I'd have had more of the things that I wanted out of life and less of the rejection, and pain, and damaging interaction with others that was there in spades. I even occasionally thought that God hated me and that he wanted me to suffer and be miserable. Why would I want to get closer to a being like that?

Then I read something in one of my devotionals a long while back that shed some light on why I might assume such things about God so readily. It had something to do with how most people think of God the same way they think of their parents. If you were the apple of your parents' eyes, if you felt like they loved you totally and accepted you for who you were, then you're more likely to assume that God also loves and accepts you. If you feel like your parents saw you as a fuck-up and a disappointment -- like you had to be something incredibly specific in order to be loved -- then you're more likely to think God feels that way about you, too.

The devotional went on to explain why this way of thinking is flawed. If God made you, then you can absolutely assume that God knew what he was getting beforehand. He knew how you were going to turn out and he foresaw all the spectacular fucking up you were going to accomplish. Your parents didn't. They rolled the dice when they decided to have a child and if you didn't fit the fantasy picture they had in their heads of what you'd be like, it's perfectly possible that they just didn't really like you and felt disappointed.

Even if your parents didn't want you though, God did. Even if your parents' love and acceptance is very conditional, God's isn't. That was a pretty powerful thing for me to consider and I think it represented a breakthrough for me. I read that and first considered what it might mean several years ago, so it's been marinating for a while. I loathe myself so much less than I used to. I no longer have that impression of myself as someone that doesn't deserve anything good. I think that may be the first time in my life I really imagined that I might be loved and accepted by someone that had a hand in making me. I've stopped blaming God for mistakes my parents, or teachers, or other people have made as a result.


A long time ago, I read about the art of kintsukuroi as specified in my little graphic up there. I remember thinking at the time that that was such a beautiful thing and I knew there was a metaphor in there  for me somewhere. Then I saw the subject come up again in a psychology today article I read that was aimed at daughters (and sons as well, but mostly daughters) that felt like they weren't really loved or valued that much by their parents, both as a child and later on as an adult. 

I liked the idea of equating myself to one of those bowls the way the author suggested. I liked the idea of letting the things that have happened to you make you stronger, more beautiful, and more valuable than you might have been before. I needed to hear that that's not only OK, but preferable, because I've never been the kind of person that can let go of things from the past. Those things broke me in a way and I'm well aware that I'll never be the same. 

Maybe that's the point. Maybe that's what God was doing when he gave me the life I've had or let me go through some of the things he did. Maybe I was meant to be like one of those gorgeous Japanese bowls -- one of a kind and astonishingly beautiful in my own way. After all, if God didn't love me, he wouldn't have given me my relationship. If God didn't care about me, there wouldn't have been so many times when we've been able to score literally the last Bessie's Revenge at the store on a Friday or bag of black-eyed peas right before New Year's. If God didn't want me, I wouldn't be here. 
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