Ezer Equipped Newsletter | The Skillful Mender
Welcome to this edition of Ezer Equipped!
My imagination has been captivated by the Japanese art of kintsugi ever since I heard about it. Kintsugi is the practice of mending broken pottery with gold-dusted lacquer, which results in a beautiful work of art. Makoto Fujimura, a contemporary artist, relates the kintsugi art of mending to our faith journeys. The Western world, he says, pursues perfection. We want to fix things—make them look as if they’d never been broken. But Japanese aesthetics values the fractures and fissures that remain—even going so far in the mending process as to accentuate them. I’ve never thought of a broken vessel as beautiful before—not until I saw it represented through kintsugi.
My experience with sex has been bittersweet—some of it good, some of it okay, and some of it painful. I’ve witnessed the goodness of sex when stewarded faithfully and the destructive nature of it when wielded selfishly. I’ve been wounded by it, and I have wounded others with it. I have seen and experienced its power to love, care, and restore as well as its power to steal, kill, and destroy. I am a broken vessel that needs to be mended.
Sex is one of God’s good gifts, and yet sin—ours and others—has tainted our perspective and experiences of it. We all have ways in which our sexuality is fractured—whether the fractures are emotional, physical, relational, or they are simply in our understanding and application of the truth of God’s Word. Because of the curse of sin, we are all cracked vessels in need of the Father’s skillful mending.
It’s not easy to view our brokenness, whether through our own sinful choices or the wounds others have inflicted on us, as having the potential to be beautiful. We want to fix, hide, or cover over our fractures and fissures—presenting ourselves to the world as if we were never broken. But what if the jagged edges, the scars, and the cracks of our stories point to God and bring him glory in a way that wouldn’t happen without their existence?
God, in his goodness, wants to mend and display them as evidence of his grace and kindness toward us (Ephesians 4:2-7). However, like all worthwhile endeavors, mending is a slow process. It’s what Fujimura calls slow art. It happens over time, with great intentionality and attention to detail. Layer by layer, piece by piece, the artist reveals his masterpiece. It is good work. It is holy work! And it is work that God will continue in you throughout your entire life, until one day the full picture comes into view. And what the Lord has created will be breathtakingly beautiful.
This month we want to invite you to engage your story with honesty, curiosity, and kindness. To help you begin that process, we have incorporated resources from our brand new Redeeming Sexuality study, launching this fall.
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
Part of living in a world still under the effects of sin means that we all sin; we are all sinned against; and we all suffer. But because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we are also all saints. As a believer, you are a sinner, saint, and sufferer. That physical and spiritual reality extends to your sexual experiences as well. This month, we want to spend time in two chapters of Romans, which highlight these realities and how God, through Christ, has provided all we need.
We all struggle with sin. In the book of Galatians, Paul says that our flesh (our old sin nature) and our spirit (our new nature in Christ) war against one another. And in this passage in Romans, Paul illustrates how that battle can take form in our daily lives. The spectrum of sexual sin is vast and looks different in the lives of each woman. For some, it may be fantasy, masturbation, or pornography. For others it may be taking personal convictions and turning them into standards of righteousness others must obey. Sin is an ongoing reality in the life of a believer.
We are saints. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus conquered sin and death once and for all through the cross. Though he was blameless and without sin, he took all of our sin on himself and suffered the just punishment we deserved. In exchange, God gave us Christ’s righteous record. So now, even though you still grapple with sin, you are a saint clothed in Christ’s righteousness—holy; blameless; and without fault, accusation, blemish or spot. Your sexual sin doesn’t define you, your identity in Christ does.
We all experience suffering. It's part of the human experience. Sometimes we suffer because of our own sin, sometimes because of sin committed against, and sometimes because of the general brokenness of the world. Whether your suffering is the result of things like abuse, betrayal, infidelity, early exposure to sexual content, harassment, or physical pain, God has promised that a day is coming when all suffering will come to an end. His promise doesn’t eradicate our suffering, but it does frame it in hope.
Chrystie Cole, Teaching Video
Both the culture and the church have contributed to our misconceptions about sex and sexuality and have framed our understanding. How do we reframe our view of sex so that it is in line with Scripture? This video invites us to look at our sexual brokenness in light of the gospel and offers a path toward hope and healing.
Ruthie Delk and Chrystie Cole
Messages on the story of the prodigal son often focus on either the sin of the indulgent younger son or the self-righteousness of the elder brother, but in Eastern culture, the focus is often on the actions of the father. In this parable, we see a picture of a father whose love compels him to run toward us in our brokenness.
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
- Sinner, saint, and sufferer are physical and spiritual realities. It is tempting to identify with one over the other and think that is the truest thing about us. What are the dangers of hyper-focusing on one? How might viewing ourselves in light of all three be helpful?
- Engaging our sexual stories requires honesty, curiosity and kindness. Not to mention courage! We often think about sexual brokenness in narrow categories, but there are many ways the curse of sin can infiltrate our lives. One way to begin this process is to do an inventory of the types of fractures you may have experienced. Review this Understanding Our Fractures chart in the picture above and think through the following questions:
- Is there anything on this list that surprises you?
- Are there some ways in which you have minimized some of these in your own life?
- What are some ways you have tried to manage some of these fractures?
As you identify fractures that are a part of your own story, be honest, be curious and be kind. This is not an easy process and we encourage you to invite a wise friend to walk with you.
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned? Pick one or two of the below steps to take.
- Read Chapter 1 of the new Redeeming Sexuality study, which will be offered at all campuses this fall and spring of 2022. We encourage you to do this study in community with others. Stay tuned to your campus newsletters for more information on when this study will be offered at your campus. The book will also be available to purchase on Amazon in mid to late August.
- Understanding our fractures is an important step. But we must also examine how we have been impacted by what has hurt us. Use the Naming Your Fractures diagram (in the picture above) and create your own circles to represent harms by me, harms to me, and brokenness of the world. Take time to fill in each circle with the ways you've experienced sexual brokenness. The intersection of these circles gives you a glimpse of how your experiences have shaped your view of sex and sexuality.
- Physically engaging our bodies can give us tangible ways to process our stories. Engaging in a simple Kintsugi-inspired art project can help us engage our brokenness in a way that helps us grieve and gives us hope that it can be transformed into a different kind of beauty. It may be as simple as drawing a fractured heart, creating a heart from torn pieces of paper, or some other artistic expression. Or you can purchase a Kintsugi clay heart kit from this site to serve as a tangible reminder of God’s beautiful mending work in our lives.