According to Japanese legend, a young man named Sen no Rikyu sought to learn the elaborate set of customs known as the “Way of Tea.” He went to tea master Takeno Joo, who tested the younger man by asking him to tend the garden. Rikyu cleaned up debris and raked the ground until it was perfect, and the garden immaculate. Before presenting his work to the master, he shook a cherry tree, causing a few flowers to fall onto the ground. To this day, the Japanese revere Rikyu as one who understood to his very core wabi-sabi. Emerging in the fifteenth century as a reaction to the prevailing aesthetic of lavishness, ornamentation, and rich materials, wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all.
Japanese culture sees the aesthetic value of imperfection in wabi-sabi just as much as the Greeks valued perfection in their art. Wabi-sabi is seen as beautiful because it is imperfect and broken. The gospel is like spiritual wabi-sabi. It is the story of how God redeems imperfect, broken people and uses them to bless a fractured world. – J.R. Briggs, “Transforming Failure,” Leadership Journal (April 2014)
Caleb* was an angry man whose life was filled with violent actions. One night, he killed a man in a fit of rage. Caught by the police, tried in court and found guilty, Caleb had plenty of time in a squalid jail to think about the direction his broken life had taken. Then someone gave him a Bible…
… With nothing else to do, he began to read it. It transformed his life. After his release from prison, he saw the need for youths in his community to read these life-changing words in their own language. He decided to become a Bible translator for his island language group. Later, he helped set up primary school programs to help children read in their heart language. He now teaches other teachers how to use heart-language Scriptures to teach children how to read. His previously fractured life was now bringing beauty beyond anything he could imagine.
Wabi-Sabi… authentic beauty through imperfection and brokenness.
*Not his real name.