Kintsugi is an ancient Japanese art form that mends broken pottery with precious metals, typically gold or silver. Instead of the scars being concealed, making it appear as if the pottery had never been broken, they are highlighted with a bright, shining metal. The Japanese believe this makes the pottery more beautiful than if it had never been broken.
Model Padma Lakshmi would likely agree. A serious car accident when she was 14 left her with a sizable scar on her right arm, and one might expect it to have ruined her chances of a modeling career. Yet she is perhaps more famous today than she might have been had the accident never happened and had the 7-inch gash never etched across her otherwise flawless skin. Some of her most famous photos prominently feature her marred arm. But in her first modeling gigs postaccident, care was taken to hide the scar from the camera’s eye because, as American fashion magazines would have it, female beauty can only exist where there is perfection (in this case, as defined by humans, not God).
As women, some of us have adopted this view of beauty that says our flaws are just plain unattractive. So we hide them, “correct” them, and if they can’t be changed, we despise them and ourselves for having them. Do men struggle with this? I can’t say; I can only speak in a limited way to the female experience. Gents, if you have thoughts on male perfection, please share.
I was recently quite moved by, of all things, a Dove commercial (yes, some commercials do indeed make me cry). I think it’s a great commercial, but it did nothing to get me to buy their soap. Sorry, Dove. Anyway, in the commercial, several women, all strangers to each other, are asked by an unidentified Wizard of Dove to dialog in pairs and take note of their partner’s appearance. Each woman then individually meets with a sketch artist to describe her own physical features and also those of her partner. In the end, each is represented by two separate drawings: one as described by herself and the other as described by her partner. The results are startling but sadly not surprising. Take a look:
Interestingly, one of the women, when describing a particular facial feature, used critical language: “My mother told me I had a big jaw.” Her partner, however, described her in more flattering terms: “She was thin, so you could see her cheekbones. And her chin. It was a nice, thin chin.”
I too have a big jaw. No really, I do. I have an underbite, and unlike Ms. Lakshmi, it’s not something I care to highlight. (Instead I thought it would be a good idea to draw attention to it on the Internet?) And stuff like this is not helpful.
But if I left my self-image in the hands of other imperfect and broken people, I’d be in a pretty sorry state.
While women can be and sometimes are critical of each other, I do love that the Dove commercial shows how we are gifted with the ability to see and appreciate beauty in each other, and honestly, I think the drawings described by the partners were more accurate. Could it be it’s easier to see beauty in someone else? I dunno. But I think either way it would be far better to rely on how God sees us than on how others see us or how we see ourselves.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” — 1 Samuel 16:7
However, it isn’t only physical perfection that throws us. There’s that issue of complete brokenness, which has led us to inflict and receive emotional and spiritual wounds — wounds we hide for fear that if others see how truly broken we are, we’ll be deemed unlovable.
But if we can allow God to love us even as we are broken, and likewise love each other, beauty might be found in the healing. Like broken pots fused together with precious metal, our scars are made lovely with the redeeming blood of Christ.
Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story.