Bless this Broken Bowl

By Alexandria Knipp

In many circumstances I’ve been proud to say that in terms of faith, I have not been fearful. While in Cairo, I was unconcerned of my safety as a Christian. When in Amman, I was undeterred by having to pray and worship in the closet of my homestay. In these times, I had full confidence of faith in my God. But as another semester started this January, I realized I was paralyzed in fear by the weight of my To-Do list… again.  

Last fall, I blamed my negative attitude and my heightened level of stress on my increased responsibilities and the filled-to-the-brim planner I carry with me *literally* everywhere. I would cherish the moment right before bed when I could sit down and check off all of the items I had set out to do that day. That felt great. The feeling of accomplishment was a huge mood booster for me. Needless to say, the feeling didn’t last long. The problem came when I got to an item I didn’t get a chance to complete, an event that I missed, a dinner date I had to reschedule. Crossing out an item on the list or simply moving it to another day felt like utter betrayal, an inescapable failure. It was like I was admitting that I couldn’t accomplish the things I “needed” to. I was relying on my own abilities and I was failing.

This winter I recovered. I spent my days not writing a list. I meditated a lot, prayed a lot, spent time in good conversation, and rested my mind and my soul. I was convinced that I could bring this new attitude straight back to campus with me, no problems. But, on the first day of classes as I started writing down my To-Do list I could feel the stress pouring into my thoughts. I sat down to pray and meditate and truly felt for the first time the weight of the elephant that had been standing on my chest for so long: fear coupled with doubt. I felt and feared that my intrinsic worth was tied up in how much I could accomplish in a day. I fear being unproductive. I fear not finishing the things I start. I fear my own schedule. I am petrified of appearing, or worse, actually being broken by the world around me. And this fear stems from doubt. 

I was speaking with a good friend about my problem and he reminded me of something I used to be fascinated by: kintsukuroi. Kintsukuroi is a form of Japanese pottery, but it also doubles as a philosophy. The pottery specializes in fixing broken things. For example, if a bowl shatters on the floor, the process of kintsukuroi perfectly puts it back together. But, instead of creating seamless, invisible lines where the cracks were, with kintsukuroi you fill the cracks in with a beautiful gold lacquer – you emphasize the break; you respect the flaw. The life of the bowl doesn’t even begin until it’s been broken, because only then does it become beautiful. Only after kintsukuroi is a piece of pottery worth value, only then is it appreciated. And the true splendor lies in the ability of the potter, the one practicing kintsukuroi, because they demonstrate their power to heal. The philosophy follows the same lines, that as humans we will inevitably be broken. But just like normal restorative pottery, if you don’t acknowledge your fractures or your flaws, you hide the history of the breaks, and more importantly, the beauty of the repair.

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My Creator didn’t just create me – He repaired me. He continually repairs me. He looks at me, at my fear, and tells me not to hide it. When I was shrugging off my fear and ignoring my doubt saying, “Oh it’s just a rough time in the semester, everyone’s like this right now,” He wanted me to say “I am afraid of failure, but my God will deliver me from this stress.” When I feared being broken by this world, He wanted me to realize I already was broken. He wanted me to acknowledge my flaws, embrace them openly. And I think more importantly, He wanted me to recognize His magnificent ability to heal me. When I do that, He fills my cracks with His love – a beautiful gold lacquer that seals His grace deep into my soul. He shows me that my worth is in His promises, that my value lies in my relationship with Him. 

Right now, I’m trying to handle being vulnerable. I’m trying to put aside my pride and recognize what He wants for me. I am struggling with the fear of not being good enough, not finishing everything on my To-Do list, my doubt. I am broken, openly broken for the first time in a very long time. But, in this broken state is tender invitation: this, I can do – here, I can love. Here, I can experience God as the master potter and experience His loving repair – proudly showing off His capability to make me into something truly whole once again, even with the fears and flaws that have shattered me in the past.

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You are potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8

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Alexandria Knipp is a sophomore at Western Kentucky University where she studies International Affairs, Arabic, and Economics. She is passionate about faith, languages, and lattes. In the future, she hopes to serve on a large scale.

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