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The Gift Of Kintsugi Christianity

A lesson for Catholics in crisis: maybe you need to be shattered to be made authentically whole

This moving letter came in today from the author of an e-mail I titled “Searching For Ithaca,” which I posted on June 1, and which became one of the most popular posts I’ve ever done. I post the following with his permission:

In the two months or so since I sent you the “Searching for Ithaca” letter, which was largely about my struggle to accept the teachings of the Catholic Church while yearning to transcend the modern world, things have been eventful. I have received more than 150 emails from strangers, I have developed regular correspondence with several of them, I have not been to Mass a single time, and, of course, the Church may be imploding.

First, a positive word: the responses I got from people were overwhelmingly reassuring, heartwarming, and inspiring. Many people are struggling with accepting the tenets of faith, and more often than not they are facing those struggles with good humor, determination, and hope. I received accounts of people working in their communities, reading the Gospels again and again until the Word became second nature, and responding to doubt by serving the poor and needy. Good stories all – plus a few grumpy letters from atheists, of course.

I have new friendships with several people: an erstwhile academic in Iowa and another in Massachusetts, a writer in Texas who casually produces prose that crackles with intelligence, and, perhaps most surprisingly, a seminarian on the East Coast who came to the Church through an intellectual journey that has be heard to be believed. They are good men all, and I am grateful to have them in my life. They alone should have been enough to buoy my Catholic beliefs.

But, of course, this is the Summer of McCarrick, and it is not the best time to be clinging to your Catholicism by a thread, as I have been. My faith was already stretched to a breaking point, and Uncle Ted – and the bishops’ reactions to events – seems like the thing that will break it. There is much discussion these days about our collective lack of trust in institutions, and the gutless reactions by bishops and cardinals, rife as they are with legalistic maneuvering and credulity-defying know-nothingism, aren’t going to help matters. One marvels not just at the unsympathetic and robotic responses, but at the rank administrative incompetence and buck-passing that would hardly fly in organizations that don’t cling to a medieval operational mindset.

The sense I have from the many dozens of people who emailed me is that, at this moment, the faithful are too good for the faith. Note that I’m saying the faithful, by which I mean the people truly trying to follow the example of Christ in their daily lives – the people who wrote to me, and who are bowing their heads in prayer and grappling with doubt even as they serve others. I do not mean the people, for example, in the rich parish on the west side of my city, people who show up for a quick Saturday vigil Mass and jet off in their Range Rovers as quickly as possible, having dispensed with the feint in the direction of belief, or the rich donors to the area’s Catholic prep schools, who hide behind a highfalutin mission while donating tens of thousands to exclusive schools to ensure the perpetuation of a caste system.

These people, ensconced in the warm embrace of their luxury homes and their vaguely defined but always exploitative jobs, practice the very indifference that allows bishops to operate without accountability. As long as they get to send their kids to “Catholic” schools, as long as they get to be feted at this month’s lavish and self-congratulatory dinner, they don’t mind what happens behind the scenes. They wouldn’t know how to help a beggar if they even noticed him through the smoky windows of the Audi; they wouldn’t know Magdalene if she spit on their Louboutins.

My new friend in Texas, whose writing I wish the whole world could read, put it best in response to my exasperated lamentation about McCarrick: “I don’t know, man: I think the only reasonable conclusion is that this isn’t Christ’s Church. A lot of special pleading would be required to believe otherwise, and I decline to make excuses for swine.” This feels depressingly and bluntly accurate to me, and swine is exactly the right word to use. The faithful still exist: they are the humble and merciful seekers who truly love their neighbors. But the faith? The institution? It seems to be, much like the U.S. government, running only on fumes — a victim of its own immense size, byzantine rulemaking, and loophole-ridden bureaucracy. Perhaps scale is the problem. Perhaps a return to subsidiarist thinking in all realms of life is the only thing that can redeem us.

I know Christians tend not to like Philip Pullman, but my Texas friend sent this wonderful passage of his that I’ve been turning over in my mind during all the McCarrick news:

“Lord, if I thought you were listening, I’d pray for this above all: that any church set up in your name should remain poor, and powerless, and modest. That it should wield no authority except that of love. That it should never cast anyone out. That it should own no property and make no laws. That it should not condemn, but only forgive. That is should be not like a palace with marble walls and polished floors, and guards standing at the door, but like a tree with its roots deep in the soil, that shelters every kind of bird and beast and gives blossom in the spring and shade in the hot sun and fruit in the season.”

Yes, there are problems with this if you are a believing Catholic. But isn’t the spirit of it exactly what we need right now? A little more humility? A little more simplicity? A little less plausible deniability and stage-managed evasions? Maybe fewer private cars for bishops? Maybe fewer flowing robes and jewel-laden rings? I don’t expect all clergy to follow St. Francis and sprinkle ashes on their food, lest they partake in the pleasure of a delicious meal and forget their humble role as servants, but I’d like it if they moved just a bit closer to that position.

For my part, I may be done with Catholicism. It’s hard to see a path back for me. I don’t expect perfection, but I do expect basic goodness and decency. I do expect sworn servants of God to share my horror not just at abuse but at institutional coverups. As a parent, I simply cannot fathom how anyone could stay silent when confronted with evidence of abuse, no matter how much bureaucratic pressure there is to just go along. Where are the good men? Where is the honor and courage?

The clergy now seem to me like the suitors who took over the palace of Odysseus during his absence, helping themselves to his resources and acting without restraint – drunk with wine, drunk with greed, drunk with power. Telemachus could not stop them; the laity cannot stop our modern suitors. We need an Odysseus to clear them out. Where is the Cardinal who will say that enough is enough? For the sake of all those people who emailed me with their stories, for the sake of my new friends struggling with doubt, for the sake of the poor and the hungry who rely on the good works of the Church: what Odysseus will arise on their behalf to purge these suitors from the palace?

That’s powerful.

Let me tell you a story.

I spent an hour on the phone this week talking to “James,” the man at the center of last week’s blockbuster New York Times story . James was 11 when McCarrick started molesting him — an abusive relationship that continued for 20 years. I hope to post an account of our conversation later.

When I got off the phone, I was physically exhausted — this, just from a phone conversation, from listening to James’s stories about what happened to him at McCarrick’s hands. It was a very familiar story, but the kind of account I had not heard in over a decade, since I left the Roman Catholic Church and stopped reporting on the abuse scandal. As I’ve said many times, trying to explain what happened to me, I left the Church in the way an animal caught in a trap chews its leg off to save its life. It is hard to express how spiritually broken and emotionally fatigued I was after four years of writing about the scandal, of talking to Jameses, of listening to the bishops’ lies upon lies, and of finally coming to accept that the Church would never change. That these bishops would rather see it all fall down around them than deal with this moral and spiritual catastrophe like Christian men.

I could not see raising my children in this Church. At the end, it took everything I had to hold on. When my wife and I recognized that we weren’t just losing our Catholic faith, but running the risk of losing our faith in Jesus Christ entirely, we let go. The truth that saves is not a doctrine, but a man, Jesus Christ. If, for whatever reasons, we were not able to hold on to Jesus as Roman Catholics, then our Roman Catholicism had to go. It was a matter of eternal life. We simply no longer believed that our salvation depended on remaining in communion with the See of Rome. It wasn’t a matter of weighing arguments in the balance and concluding, after careful deliberation, that we could no longer affirm Catholic teaching. It was about fleeing a house on fire.

As Catholics, with our theological and ecclesiological convictions, Protestantism was not an option. There’s no point getting into the details here, There was only one place left for us to go: to the Orthodox Church. We were lucky. The parish we fell into in Dallas, St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral, was a strong one. The worship was spectacularly beautiful and reverent, and the community there was made up of people who were visibly serious about their faith. This wasn’t a local branch of the sacrament factory; this was a church. In my 13 years as a fervent Catholic, one who had lived in five dioceses in different parts of the US, I had never been part of a parish like that one. Orthodoxy was what I thought Catholicism would be when I converted in 1993.

We went there not with the intention of converting to Orthodoxy, but just so we could be at church on Sunday, in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist (which we could not receive, not being Orthodox), and join in reverent worship, without this constant feeling of anxiety, fear, and anger. After some time, we knew we had a decision to make. We chose Orthodoxy, and have never regretted it.

Being received into the Orthodox Church in 2006 was a very different experience for me from my reception in 1993 into the Roman Catholic Church. Back then, I felt like I had reached the top of a mountain. Now, it felt like I had fallen off the mountain, and somehow hit the valley without dying, and was learning how to stand and walk again. I was so exhausted and broken and sad. I wanted to be happy on that day, but I couldn’t muster it. I knew I had done the right thing, the only thing, but my Orthodoxy was born out of the worst tragedy of my life — a wound that I will always carry, like the memory of a first marriage gone bad.

The reason I was Orthodox was because I wanted Jesus more than I wanted to be Catholic. I had staked so much of my own personal identity in being Catholic, and not just Catholic, but a Conservative Catholic™, with all the privileges of that tribe, which included (in my case) a lot of smug, self-satisfaction. As I’ve said many times before in this space, I confess that I had given myself over to idol worship. The Catholic Church didn’t make me idolize it; that was on me. That was my fault. Had I found Orthodoxy then, or Calvinism, I would probably have been the same kind of Orthodox or Calvinist. I was looking for something in the Catholic faith that compelled me to hero-worship it, though I didn’t know what I was doing at the time. I thought I was just being faithful. In my own case, I had to throw down the idol or be lost to God, possibly forever. This same idol-worship, I saw, caused a lot of good people to turn a blind eye to defending the weak, and calling corrupt clergy and bishops to account. I was not responsible for them, though. I was responsible for myself, and the children God gave me to raise as Christians.

I had always believed that if I kept the arguments straight in my head for Catholicism, that my faith would be invulnerable. It turned out not to be true. In fact, that very intellectualism had been an Achilles heel for me as a Catholic. I spent months there at the end trying to analyze the arguments for papal primacy from both a Catholic and an Orthodox perspective, and I could not settle it in my own mind. Finally it hit me: I could spend endless time running these syllogisms through my mind, while my own soul is drying up, along with the faith of my family. This extended intellectual exercise I was running had real world consequences for the people I loved most dearly, and possibly eternal ones.

If we had had a solid Catholic parish life at that time in Dallas, maybe things would have been different for us. If I had never started to investigate the scandal back in 2001, as a New York journalist, we might not have been at that crisis point. If, if, if — it was all in vain by then. Jesus Christ was becoming for my wife and me increasingly an abstraction, drowning as we were in anger and fear, and starving for real church life.

At least we have the Eucharist, we told ourselves, using the argument that besieged Catholics tell themselves over and over to justify white-knuckling it through what they have to endure in the parish. And it’s not just an excuse! That’s the main reason we could not become Protestant: we believed the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist existed in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, but not in the Protestant churches. There was no way we were going to be able to walk away from the Eucharist, and the other sacraments. That’s why Orthodoxy was all that was left to us. We wanted — we needed — so much more out of Christian life than telling ourselves over and over that at least Jesus is here in the Eucharist, which makes the rest of it — including the sexual corruption and the profound indifference of the hierarchy — all tolerable. Surely there must be more than that. Surely.

For a long time we felt guilty for expecting more than that. And then we went to St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral, and realized that we weren’t wrong to want more out of church life, that it existed, and that we could have it. But it would cost us.

After we became Orthodox, I told a new friend at the cathedral, a cradle Orthodox, that a parishioner who came to me and congratulated me for escaping Catholicism had meant well, but had hurt my feelings. I don’t hate the Catholic Church, I told him; in fact, I still love it, as an exile loves his homeland, even though he is grateful for his refuge.

That cradle Orthodox strongly warned me not to think for one second that I’ve escaped church corruption by becoming Orthodox. I knew that, but he emphasized it powerfully in our conversation. If the same spotlight that the courts and the media had fixed on the Catholic Church was turned on the Orthodox Church, the man said, we would be in trouble. I don’t think he was talking about sexual corruption, and maybe he had nothing particular in mind. But he was cautioning me against triumphalism, which is something you see in a lot of converts to Orthodoxy. I was guilty of it in the 1990s as a Catholic convert, especially because my Catholicism was so intellectual.

I had to make a firm decision at the start of my life as an Orthodox Christian, not be the kind of Orthodox that I was a Catholic. I had to resolve never, ever to put my trust in princes of the church, and not to make an idol of the institution. I had done this as a Catholic, and it had led to my spiritual ruin. I had been the sort of Catholic who would try to convince a wavering Episcopalian to convert to Catholicism. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, and there’s nothing wrong with people who believe that they’ve found the truth in Orthodoxy trying to convince other Christians to come on over.

But it wasn’t something I could do. I had been raised Protestant, converted to Catholicism, lost my Catholic faith, and was now Orthodox. I had no authority to tell people what they ought to do. That didn’t reflect my own doubts about Orthodoxy; it reflected my own doubts about myself. Given the kind of man I was in my mid-twenties, I had received Catholicism as a sword to wield against the world. Now, nearing 40, I received Orthodoxy as a drowning man would seize a life preserver.

I very nearly shipwrecked myself again, by getting involved in church politics a few years after I was received into Orthodoxy. I ended up doing things I shouldn’t have done — writing on the Internet under an assumed name — and was outed after a deceitful bishop took another priest’s e-mails. Still, I shouldn’t have gotten involved, knowing my own weaknesses, and I deserved the opprobrium some heaped on me. Lesson learned, again. I also learned from direct personal experience that I would be very wise to stick to my plan to keep the institutional church at arm’s length. I’m just not strong enough to go through all that again.

Over time, I have come to love Orthodoxy, and to give God thanks for it, even though it was a gift that required me to fall off the mountaintop to receive. I make a point not to proselytize for Orthodoxy on this blog. It’s not that kind of blog, and I don’t want ever to be perceived as taking advantage of the faith crises of others to lobby them to become Orthodox. I’m not that kind of person. A couple of weeks ago, in one of the exchanges I’ve been having with various Catholic readers who are struggling with their faith right now, I told the reader that he could trust me not to exploit his vulnerability to advocate for Orthodoxy. As a younger man, and as a Catholic, I would likely have done that, and you can certainly find Orthodox apologists who would see a potential convert in these broken Catholics. But I’m not that guy anymore. I genuinely grieve for Catholics like the “Searching For Ithaca” author, and so many more of you who have posted in the comments section, and have written to me privately.

Any Christian who gloats at what Catholics are suffering now is a bad Christian. Any Christian who wants to take advantage of them is a bad Christian. I’ve been where they are now, and it hurts like nothing else. I feel the same way about Protestants who find themselves in that terrible position in their own churches. It could happen to any of us, Orthodox included. Some of the stories I’ve heard from Russian Orthodox living in Russia sound all too familiar to this former Catholic.

I can’t pretend, though, that I haven’t lived through a dramatic difference between life as an American Catholic, and life as an American Orthodox. I was Catholic for 13 years, and have been Orthodox for almost as long. I can’t tell to what extent the difference is because I personally approach the life of faith differently, and to what extent it’s because the Orthodox ethos is so different from American Catholicism. But it’s real, and it has made a real difference in my life.

Let me stipulate that I’ve been in Orthodox congregations that feel like the frozen chosen, ethnic style. Those places exist. Corruption also exists in Orthodoxy. The Greeks in the US are going through a bad time right now, though as a former Catholic, it almost feels like a relief that the corruption is about finances, not sex. Sorry, but there it is.

It might be the case that there’s a lot of sexual corruption among Orthodox clergy, and I’m just in the dark about it. Pokrov.org is a site that keeps track of victims of sexual abuse within Orthodoxy and Eastern Rite Catholic churches. One has the impression, though, that sexual corruption among Orthodox clergy is a much lesser thing in this country. I welcome correction. To be blunt, priests seem more — how to put this? — normal. I’ve worshiped in a number of Catholic parishes over the years, and have seen a number of priests that struck me as gay, or … off, somehow. I have not had remotely the same experience in Orthodoxy. Not even close. I don’t know whether that’s because Orthodox priests are allowed to marry, or because seminarians are screened more carefully here. Perhaps it’s a situation where having a married clergy keeps seminary culture grounded in heterosexuality. Or, maybe the situation with clerical sexual corruption is worse in Russia and Greece, which are majority Orthodox countries. I honestly don’t know. All I can tell you is that the ethos feels significantly different in Orthodox churches.

And, in my experience, which is mostly limited to heavily convert parishes, the atmosphere in Orthodoxy is generally much more mystical and reverential than what I experienced in Catholic churches. The current issue of the Catholic magazine New Oxford Review contains a discussion of a new book by the French church historian Guillaume Cuchet, in which Cuchet discussed the collapse of Catholicism in France. Excerpt:

Recently, French Orthodox writer Jean-Claude Larchet reviewed Cuchet’s new book, How Our World Stopped Being Christian: Anatomy of a Collapse(OrthoChristian.com, May 29), a penetrating look at the spectacular decline of Catholicism in France. Some — though likely not most NOR readers — might be surprised at what Cuchet identifies as the root cause of this decline. Catholicism itself, says he, bears the heaviest responsibility in the de-Christianization of France. And yep, he specifically identifies the Second Vatican Council as the primary catalyst of it all. The Council, writes Larchet in his review, “proposed to face the challenges of the modern world,” and yet it “did nothing but adapt itself to the latter; thinking to bring the world to its side, it ended up giving in to the world, and despite wanting to be heard in the secular sphere, Catholicism has instead become secularized.” In other words, the Church in France (and elsewhere, of course) became impotent by its own hand.

Though this assertion is hardly groundbreaking, Cuchet gets into specifics that are worthy of serious consideration. This rupture in the Church, which he traces back to 1965, the year the Council closed, can be identified with the liturgical reforms, yes, but more precisely with the changing attitudes toward sin occasioned by both the Council and its liturgical reforms. In the area of piety, the abandonment of Latin and the change toward the reception of Communion in the hand played an important role, but Cuchet focuses more on the promulgation of a religious relativism that, if not written straight up in the documents of Vatican II, was the result of willful misinterpretation or misapplication of these summary documents. The Council’s documents seem to have been designed to allow for liberal interpretations, the kind that led to the secularization of Catholicism throughout France — a secularization that happened almost overnight. “A whole series of ‘truths’ suddenly fell into oblivion,” writes Larchet, “as if the clergy themselves had ceased to believe in them or did not know what to say about them after having spoken of them for so long as something essential.” More importantly, writes Cuchet in his book, “the Council paved the way for what might be called ‘a collective exit from the obligatory practice on pain of mortal sin.’”

Cuchet traces almost all the official and unofficial conciliar reforms to two fundamental crises: the crisis of the Sacrament of Penance and the crisis of not preaching on the Last Things. According to Cuchet, the massive abandonment in just a few years of the practice of confession had a profound impact on Catholic attitudes toward sin, and toward life in general. In 1952 51 percent of French Catholics went to confession at least the obligatory once per year. By 1983 that was down to just 14 percent. The concept of a personal conscience, misunderstood as it universally was, led to most Catholics rationalizing away the sins they had committed. Not only that, says Cuchet, the French clergy allowed them to do so. They abandoned the practice of confession (that is, hearing confessions frequently) just as had the so-called faithful.

Cuchet, in fact, lays most of the blame at the feet of the French clergy. They failed, he says, in their duty to preach about sin, to preach properly on the work of a well-formed conscience, and to preach about the importance of confession and penance. Thus, the usefulness of confession became less obvious, as did the connection between confession and Holy Communion. In a word, Communion was trivialized and confession nearly non-existent.

This description of French Catholic life will sound familiar to Americans. For me, as a former Catholic turned Orthodox, the most dramatic differences I noticed at first were between worship (far more elevated in Orthodoxy) and the emphasis on confession and personal repentance. I always went to confession as a Catholic, but it was rarely ever discussed from the pulpit, and the sense one had was that it wasn’t that big a deal. Not so in Orthodoxy, at least not in the parishes I’ve been a part of. I’m not sure if this is going to sound right, but I came to sense that within Orthodoxy, the faith is experienced in a more organic, versus the mechanical way I had become used to in Catholicism.

Carlo Lancellotti, the Italian-born scientist, writer, and Catholic reader of this blog, said something really interesting and true on Twitter not long ago. He said that American Catholics need to discover that Catholicism is not just a creed, and not just an institution, but is above all a way of life. Absolutely, yes! And not just American Catholics, but all American Christians have to discover this. I’m not entirely sure why, but this has been vividly true for me and my family in Orthodoxy. I have never felt more alive as a Christian than I do now. It’s because of the ordinary disciplines of Orthodox living, which run so deep.

However, I know for a fact that it can be that way for Catholics too. My personal hero is Marco Sermarini, the leader of the Tipi Loschi, the Italian Catholic lay community I write about in The Benedict Option. I wish every discouraged American Catholic could travel to San Benedetto del Tronto, on the Adriatic, spend some time with that community, and see what is possible. They are ordinary orthodox Catholics who have true evangelical joy, and who are beacons of light and love. They didn’t sit around waiting for lukewarm parish priests to lead them. They did it themselves. When the Benedictines refounded the monastery in Norcia, the Tipi Loschi started going on pilgrimages there with their children, and doing Scripture studies with the monks.

If you think Catholicism is dying, you’re right — at least about many places in the West. But it is not dying in San Benedetto del Tronto. It is gloriously, cheerfully alive. I’m not a Catholic, but being among the Tipi Loschi always makes me grateful to God for good Catholics.

I don’t have the sense that the Tipi Loschi are at all deceived about the state of the Catholic Church, or of Christianity in the West. They are not daunted by it, though. If you want to see the kind of Catholicism that is going to survive this extended crisis, make a pilgrimage to the Benedictines of Norcia, and then go down the mountain to the shore and see what God is doing among the Tipi Loschi.

Neither the monks of Norcia nor the Tipi Loschi community sprang fully formed. They required building — and building on faith, hope, and love. The Catholic cardinals and bishops aren’t going to save the Catholic Church. You know that, right? What will save the Church is ordinary Catholic men and women — and monks, nuns, and priests — recognizing the depth of the crisis, and responding to it as what Benedict XVI called “creative minorities.” If you want to save your Catholic faith, then fight for it! But realize that the more effective fight is to build structures within the practice of the faith where you can strengthen your own faith, in community. Yes, it means taking the Benedict Option within the Church. This is where renewal will come from.

Some of you, though, will be where I was in 2005 and 2006, and where it sounds like our correspondent above is: at a point where the ability to believe in Catholic Christianity has passed through your fingers. If that is where you are, please don’t give up on Christianity. Visit a local Orthodox parish. You’ll want to choose carefully; Antiochian and OCA parishes tend to be less ethnically focused and more convert-friendly. But please, before you give up on Christianity, try worshiping with the Orthodox, who in Catholic teaching have valid sacraments.

The Ithaca reader above talks about longing for more simplicity. I wish he could visit St. Matthew, our tiny Orthodox (OCA) mission church in Baton Rouge. We meet in a strip mall storefront. We are too small and poor at the moment to do anything different. I came into Orthodoxy in a beautiful cathedral in Dallas, but am now worshiping in a strip mall on Jefferson Highway in Baton Rouge. It is enough. Father Joshua is humble, and preaches solid sermons from the Gospels and the Church Fathers. We are small and have no political power, and no cultural cachet. I overheard a fellow parishioner saying recently, “And Father Joshua told them that if they were coming to our church for any reason other than seeking Christ, then they were in the wrong place.”

Yes, I thought, that’s how it is. That’s how it’s supposed to be. I wouldn’t have put it that way as a triumphalist, pre-2002 Catholic, because it would have sounded very Evangelical to me. Not sophisticated enough. Where is the doctrine? Where is the history? Where is the grandeur?

But it’s true. I had to be shattered and put back together to understand it. If you are going to church for any other reason than to seek Christ — Christ in the Eucharist, Christ in the Word, Christ in others — you are there for the wrong reason. If you’re lucky, the Holy Spirit will break you, and make you understand that anything that is not Christ is an idol, and that all things find their meaning through Him and in Him.

A man who worships at an large cathedral with gold an incense all around may well be closer to Him than a man who worships in a bare, simple chapel — if the simple man has made an idol of his simplicity, and is proud of himself for not being like those other Christians. See what I mean? You will have gained nothing if you leave the Catholic Church, of which you might have made a false idol, and go into the Orthodox Church, or a Protestant Church, and make of it a false idol.

Consider, though, that this trial of faith you’re going through now just might be the thing that saves your soul.

I’ve rambled on far too long, but I’ll leave you with this. I have an Evangelical friend who had a terribly abusive childhood, and who is struggling to this day with the effects of it. She showed me a piece of kintsugi that she treasures as a symbol of what she’s endured, and what Christ is doing in her. Kintsugi is a style of Japanese pottery in which the potter creates a work of pottery, then shatters it, and puts it back together using golden lacquer. The idea is to highlight where the cracks were, and to glorify them. As the Wikipedia entry on kintsugi says,  “it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”

I’ve laid out for you here the kintsugi that was my life of faith: shattered when my own idealism and rigidity cracked against church corruption, but rejoined by the mercy of God, mediated through Orthodox Christianity. You can see the cracks, and I give thanks to God for them. Those spiritual and emotional fractures hurt more than broken bones, but they are being restored each day, and even made stronger, I believe, because their re-knitting depends on my constant awareness of my own weakness, and utter dependence on grace, and the spiritual practices of ordinary Orthodox Christian life.

That’s how it went with me. Maybe your path will be different. There really is no other way forward except by facing the truth, allowing it to shatter your idols. What remains is really you, and God can and will rejoin those parts with golden grace, if you let Him. You can avoid the pain by taking the spiritual equivalent of anaesthetics, but that’s not healing.




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