Notes from the Wayside - August 2023

Damaged Wayside Shrine in Giaglione, Italy
July 27th, 2023 was an important anniversary for me, but unfortunately, not the fun kind. It marked not a birthday, or a wedding day, but the date of a car accident that exactly ten years before had changed my relationship with my body, forever. I have written elsewhere (See “Notes From the Wayside, February 2023”) about the crushing nerve injury I suffered in that accident, and how pain and disability are now a daily part of my reality because of it. So this July 27th was a day of reflection, remembrance, and also of triumph, because 3,652 days is a long time to have been in constant pain; and though there have been many, many times when I have tearfully told my husband that I cannot take the pain anymore, that I can’t possibly make it one more day, somehow I always have.  

My nine-year-old son, Cirocco, recently sat up late with me one night when I was in too much pain to sleep (an all-too-common occurrence) and asked me if I was mad at the man who had crashed into me all those years before. The question took me by surprise, because it has never occurred to me to be angry at the other driver for the pain that I suffer. The man, whose name and face I remember well, made a simple driving error, as we all have, and inadvertently injured a total stranger, permanently. There was no evil or malice there; just a normal guy on his way to work who misread an ambiguous road sign at 12th and Division and caused an ugly accident. Any of us could make the same kind of mistake.

So no, I told Cirocco, I don’t feel angry; what I feel, most often, is sad. Sad about how hard it is to hurt all the time, sad about how much my limitations burden my husband and children, sad about all the things I used to love but can no longer do. I grieve the loss of my physical strength and independence, and sometimes I wish I could just put all my broken pieces back together and be the same person I was before the accident.

This, I think, is what many of us yearn for after we’ve been through a calamity: to be put back together in the same way again, to be healed, to be “restored” to our old selves.

Now, in our Western World, when we talk about having “restored” an antique painting or a cracked vase, we mean that we have returned it to its original state, the goal being to fully eradicate any signs of damage or imperfections. But the Japanese have an ancient artistic practice called “Kintsugi” with the exact opposite aim. Instead of being hidden, in Kintsugi art, the broken parts of an object are actually highlighted so that they become more noticeable. Wikipedia says of Kintsugi:

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.… Kintsugi is the general concept of highlighting or emphasizing imperfections, visualizing mends and seams as an additive or an area to celebrate or focus on, rather than absence or missing pieces.
This is a very different take on what “restoration” can mean, and it strikes me that the Kintsugi definition is much closer to the way that God sets about restoring a human person:

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10).

God doesn’t erase or disguise what has been broken in us so that we can be “whole” in the same way again. He uses the broken places, penetrates them; as the celebrated Leonard Cohen line says, “there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in”. The Divine light gets into our wounds, and, like the stunning golden lacquer that a Kintsugi artist uses to accentuate the cracks in a shattered vessel, permeates them to make us more beautiful, more like God himself. The damage, the breaks, the mending, aren’t hidden, they are celebrated, as they are all a part of the story of our soul and its journey towards Heaven.

I do still hope and pray for the healing of my physical wounds, and am in fact headed to Sacramento in two weeks to see a distinguished specialist for just this purpose. I would like my body to be relieved of its burden. But, while I would never have chosen to have been in a car accident 10 years ago, the way that this suffering has transformed my soul is something I would not trade. I would not relinquish the resilience, grit, and strength that I have developed, nor the insights my pain has given me into helping other people who are hurting. I am deeper now because of what God has done through my wounds; there are streaks of dazzling, vibrant gold on my soul that never would have been there if I had driven a different way on July 27th, 2013.


Vona Da Silva - August 23rd, 2023 at 2:14pm

Absolutely beautiful reflection, Tara. Thank you for sharing. I will keep you in my prayers. - Vona

Fred Isaacs - August 23rd, 2023 at 3:37pm

Beautiful, and moving, and reminiscent of St. Paul. Thank you for this.

Tyler Burns - August 23rd, 2023 at 4:47pm

Great "Note from the Wayside." I'm in agreement with you right now, in prayer, for healing by Jesus' stripes.

Julie Carter - August 28th, 2023 at 2:46pm

Tara, those are some deep, hard, difficult truths you have learned through your experience. Thank you for sharing and encouraging others to reach for something rich and deep in personal struggles.

Prayers for healing.