“Wabi-Sabi” Redemption


Some time back I had written on the metaphor of “Kintsukuroi” with regards to the Christian Faith… particularly our understanding of humanity (theological anthropology). I noted that in the Japanese pottery artform of “golden repair,” beauty is seen in the accentuation of the repairs rather than the hiding of repairs. The making of beauty out of destruction is a redemptive act, and demonstrates the true skills of a master craftsman.  If you want to see those posts, click below. Both are good, but the 2nd post contains my theological perspective of the metaphor. :

Kintsukuroi Faith: Beautifully Broken. Part 1wabi-sabi-pot3

Kintsukuroi Faith: Beautifully Broken. Part 2

But one could see the artform of kintsukuroi as being based on an aesthetic viewpoint known as “Wabi-sabi.” (Do not assume I am an “artsy” person. I am not. But I do love a good metaphor.) Pulling a little bit of Wikipedia:

Wabi-sabi represents Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”

For many of us, our aesthetic is guided, often unconsciously, by the Greek ideal. Beauty is seen in:

  • Symmetry and “flawlessness”
  • Conforming to some ideal (unnatural) form
  • Unchangingness

These ideals not only affect our aesthetics, they affect our theology as well. I have previously noted two “attributes” of God in Christian theology that seem to be based more on Platonic thought than on Biblical revelation. I believe this has led us to a very mistaken picture of God.

. These are the Immutability and Impassibility of God. (See post HERE)

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It seems as if God finds beauty outside of Platonic Ideals. Of course, in Greek thought, the natural world was bad or flawed, while the spiritual world is good. Although, the New Testament utilizes the metaphoric contrast of the carnal and the spirit, it is clear that Paul is not rejecting creation. God created a wild, diverse, amazing, ephemeral-transient world in Genesis 1 and described it as “Very Good.” God created man “in His own image.” People like to argue what that means. But what is inarguable, is that mankind has diversity of size, looks, hues, and gender. As a child, I remember having a Bible story book and in it, there was the story of Adam and Eve. In the book, the it said that God created Eve and Eve was the most beautiful woman in the world. I suppose in Genesis 1 that would have to be true. But in the book, they had a picture of Eve. She had the look of a 1950s ideal for beauty (a la Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly) including 1950s style make-up. My suspicion is that neither Adam nor Eve would be considered particularly appealing or photogenic today. Their “beauty” is found in their unique “imperfections” that God gifted them with. That should be comforting to us. Redemption would be bringing us in line with God’s ideal for us, not our own ideal.

While we promote certain looks as ideal or beautiful, God sent His son having nothing in His looks to draw special attention to Himself. Jesus suffered mutilation at the hands of the evil and ignorant, but when God raised Him up, He left Jesus with the scars of His ordeal. It seems as if the disciples were more convinced of the power of God demonstrated in these scars than they were by Jesus’ transfiguration.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. II Corinthians 12:9-10

You might argue that this passage does not relate to “wabi-sabi” and I suppose you are right. But it certainly does not line up with Greek ideals or Roman virtues either. It seems to me that we can draw a bit of “wabi-sabi” into our understanding of redemption. (Note: there are aspects of the philosophy of wabi-sabi that I am not promoting. I am simply noting that aspects of it may be valuable to consider in our faith.)

God created us as limited, diverse, transient, imperfect beings. Our redemption is not the negation of those things, but the fulfillment of our creation. We were fearfully and wonderfully made, and I believe heaven will be full of people who share one thing in common– an absolute failure to conform to our present ideas of perfection.

God’s work in perfecting us, is a redemptive act of making us what we were meant to be. But what we are meant to be is far different than what we think is perfect.

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