Lent, Day 6

LOOK: Breathe by Billie Bond

Bond, Billie_Kintsugi Heads
Billie Bond (British, 1965–), Breathe (diptych), 2018. Black stoneware, resin, gold, 15.8 × 13 × 7.9 in. each. [available for sale]

This pair of ceramic busts by British sculptor Billie Bond is inspired by the Japanese art of kintsugi, or “golden seams,” by which a broken pottery vessel is repaired using gold lacquer. With this technique the cracks are purposefully accentuated rather than hidden, and the mended object is even more beautiful than the original.

Japanese American author, speaker, and artist Makoto Fujimura has spoken extensively about kintsugi as a metaphor for human brokenness and mending in Christ. We come to Christ in fragments; he lovingly puts us back together. The scars remain, but like his, they shine.

For Bond, the kintsugi heads represent human fragility and resilience—particularly healing after grief or psychological trauma, and enlightenment gained through experience. View more of Bond’s kintsugi sculptures here.

Bond, Billie_Smashed ceramic head
Smashed ceramic head by Billie Bond, before being reassembled and repaired with gold

LISTEN: “Come Healing” by Leonard Cohen and Patrick Leonard, 2012 | Performed by Elayna Boynton at Crosswalk Church, Redlands, California, 2012; and on The Farewell (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), 2019

O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow
The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace
O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart

O troubledness concealing
An undivided love
The Heart* beneath is teaching
To the broken Heart above
O let the heavens falter
Let the earth proclaim:
Come healing of the Altar
Come healing of the Name

O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood
And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

O let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

* The official website of Leonard Cohen, maintained by Sony Music Entertainment, capitalizes “Heart” in this stanza; same with “Altar” and “Name.”

Known as “the poet of brokenness,” Leonard Cohen (1934–2016) is widely considered one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Spiritual yearning characterizes quite a few of his songs, the most famous of which is “Hallelujah.” He was Jewish, with a respect for other spiritual traditions and a fondness for Jesus Christ as a universal figure.

“Come Healing” is from Cohen’s 2012 album Old Ideas. Elayna Boynton, perhaps discovered through this YouTube video from a worship service at her Southern California church, was asked to record the song for the 2019 film The Farewell (an excellent watch!). Cohen’s deep growl of a voice, though it has its admirers, is not attractive to me, so Boynton’s cover really helped me hear the tremendous beauty of this song.

Elliot R. Wolfson describes “Come Healing” as “a poem that is prayer in its purest distillation, a prayer clothed in quintessential nakedness, an anthem that celebrates and laments the wholehearted fragmentariness of the human condition.”

The speaker prays for healing of body and spirit, head and heart. We bring our failures and our lack, our guilt and regrets and all manner of pain to the altar, to the “gates of mercy.” We long to bloom, to be purified. In the mystical unity of love that ties our hearts to God, our hurt hurts him. His heart breaks over seeing us suffer, whether as a result of our own sin (which is what Cohen’s “penitential hymn” seems to focus on) or due to things outside our control.

When we bring our cracked or shattered selves to God, acknowledging our inability to fix the damage, he will restore us to wholeness.

While spiritual salvation is granted instantly (at least in the understanding of my tradition) to the one who turns to God, through Christ, in faith and repentance, what about other types of brokenness that we come to him with? Why won’t he heal us of that chronic physical condition? Or that debilitating mental illness? Or the effects of trauma? Why won’t he heal that broken relationship between us and our parent, despite our efforts at reconciliation?

I don’t have an answer for that—why, though none of us is free of pain and hardship in this life, some suffer much more than others; or why some receive healing and others do not. But eventual wholeness, shalom, is promised to those who are in Christ. In the new heavens and the new earth, salvation will be holistic, infusing spirits as well as bodies, minds, relationships, systems, and the whole created world.

And sometimes we do receive glimpses of that wholeness here and now! Sometimes the cancer goes away. Sometimes the depression is effectively treated, and fulfillment made possible again. Sometimes the sobriety sticks.

Often God is piecing us back together slowly, such that the progress may be imperceptible until years later, we look back and can see it.

The song suggests that although we don’t always deserve the slings and arrows that come our way, neither do we deserve the lavish graces God bestows. Sometimes we’re so focused on the one that we fail to see the other.

Even though complete wholeness is not possible in this life, God still invites us to reach out to him with the shards of our life, to seek his healing in specific areas—with faith that he can heal whatever it is that’s broken! He will tend to the shards with loving tenderness. And maybe put them back together in a way we didn’t expect.

4 thoughts on “Lent, Day 6

  1. Hello, Thanks for continuing to send these! There is so much joy that I receive from your curation.

    I thought I’d return the favor and share a project I’ve been working on that you might enjoy. It’s my Stations of the Cross video series. The images used are from a set I created consisting of 14 pieces which help you walk with Jesus from the garden of Gethsemane to the tomb. For this video series, I am excited to be creating a bonus 15th piece focusing on the Resurrection. Starting April 3rd, 2022 leading up to Easter, I will release a new video each day focusing on one station at a time. Feel free to sign up here http://eepurl.com/hWvQJL to get the links delivered directly to your inbox each day if you like.

    Grace to you, Soteria Thompson -Process Artist

    Like

  2. I have followed Leonard Cohen’s music for many year, but never ran across this song, “Come Healing.” It is beautiful and powerful. Thank you for sharing. Another song he wrote that is a prayer of sorts, “If It Be Your Will,” is one of my favorites that I sing again and again.

    Like

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