The Bench

By Blesson Mathew, Partnership Coordinator

Have you ever glanced at a seemingly insignificant object and wondered about its story? Last summer in New York there was a moment when a simple bench produced a game-changing conversation. The idea was to replace this old beat up bench that sits in front of a local church. The intention was great. After-all, it looked pretty beat up and could barley seat 3 people on it without falling through. Replacing the entire bench seemed to be the best option considering the bench appeared to be not worth the repair effort. It would likely cost the same as buying a new one.

What if I told you that bench had a story? A story that was simple, but rich in history to this church and the community it belonged to.

The bench was donated to the church in memory of one of the founding pastors, custom made over 80 years ago. Think about the hard work that was put in to create that bench in the first place. Think about all the history the bench holds. How about the many years of stories and conversations that were had on this very bench? And how about all the different generations that must have taken a seat on it over the years? I only know so much about it from the community and church members that have shared it with me over the years, but think of all the untold history it holds.

In Japan, they use an ancient practice called Kintsugi which is the practice of restoring broken things. The meaning of the word is “golden joinery” or “to patch with gold,” and it is an age-old custom of repairing cracked pottery with real gold. This includes not just fixing breaks, but greatly increasing the value of the piece by sealing the cracks and tiny crevices with lines of fine gold. Instead of hiding the flaws, Kintsugi artists highlight them, creating a whole new design and bringing unique beauty to the original piece. This process actually adds more value to the restoration process because though it was once broken, it now has a new story.

The usual intent of restoration is to make something “as good as new.” Yet the art of Kintsugi reinforces a profound belief that the repair can make things not only as good as they were before, but “better than new.” Just because we’ve been broken doesn’t mean that we should classify ourself as useless. It doesn’t mean that we are un-usable, ready to be replaced, or even worth ending our story.

Brokenness has the power, unlike anything else, to bring forth new beauty, strength, and inspiration to others. Because it’s often in those moments that we’ve gone through deep suffering, that we noticed we were made for more. We often try to hide away, preferring instead to present to the world a safe version of who we are, a more “perfect” version. It’s too difficult to risk the real vulnerability of exposing what once was. Or what still is.

To finish the story, the bench that had many years of history was preserved. Instead of just replacing it and throwing it away, it was reinforced with new bolts and screws. We did not have any gold but a clear coat of stain was used to protect the wood to keep it lasting for years. A new chapter was added to its story.

God breaks through all our messes. You are never beyond healing. You are never too broken for restoration. You are never too shattered and damaged for repair. Don’t be ashamed of your past, of the deep crevices or the broken places of your life. They have an amazing story to tell.

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