My number one design trick is paint – white paint, to be specific. Often Brad will come home from work and find a piece of furniture suddenly morphed white – “Oh, the coffee table…you painted it,” he'll observe. Over the years he’s gotten used to this.
I’ve wanted to paint these bedroom dresses for years now. I found them in my grandparents’ basement; my grandfather stored tools in them – rough files, ragged saws, hammers, nails, screwdrivers. They were pretty beat up, but I could see in a glance they had good bones: solid, heavy as all get-up, lovely scrolling on the drawers.
We hauled them out to Nebraska when we moved, and they have served as my bedroom set for the last nine years, all the while their nicked, scuffed, hulking presence a reminder of work to do…someday.
Someday finally came a few weekends ago, when Rowan and I donned our ratty, painty clothes, grabbed brushes and rollers and trays and lifted the can lid to gleaming white.
The project took all day. All. Day. In my enthusiasm I hadn’t considered the dark finish when I embarked on the refurbishing, hadn’t considered it would take four coats to cover every drawer – all 10 of them – and every surface of both dressers.
That’s just like me, by the way – to start a project gung-ho, only to find two coats in that my back aches, and my roller-arm feels weak and I've stepped into the paint tray and left white footprints all over the driveway.
Later, after the dressers had dried and Brad and I had grunted them back upstairs to the bedroom, I stood back to admire my handiwork. The detailing on the drawers popped in the creamy white. The finish shone beneath lamp’s glow.
But when I opened the drawers to place my shorts and shirts and socks back inside, I noticed the grime. Gritty dust had settled between cracks and crevices during the sanding. A tangled, grey cobweb fluttered beneath the back leg.
The ugly, stained interior was a harsh contrast to the gleaming white.
“Is this what I do in my own life, too?” I wondered, as I rubbed a damp towel along the bottoms and into the corners of each drawer.
Whitewash nicks and scuffs? Hide flaws? Sand grime and dirt to filmy dust and blow it away? Coat my surface with slick white, while inside stays ugly, dingy brown?
I think, yes. Sometimes this is exactly what I do.
What’s silly is that sometimes I even whitewash the self I present to God. I pray my polite prayers; I do my good deeds; I read my Bible passages. But do I trust him enough to present the layers beneath that shiny exterior? Do I allow him to see the real me, with the gritty, cobwebbed corners, the dark underbelly? Or do I coat myself pretty and pretend, even to him, that I am clean?
He sees it all anyway, of course.
I guess what I am learning – and learning the hard way – is that the exterior isn’t nearly enough. It’s fine to start there, but I can’t be satisfied with outward acts of faith – the volunteer work; the participation in worship; the bible study group.
No, the process must stretch beyond mere acts, beyond the scraping of the surface, into the dark recesses and dingy corners of my own self. It’s not a place I want to spend much time – it’s ugly in there – cold, dark, filthy rotten. Yet the dark insides are part of who I am, too.
I’d say it’s about time I grab a dust rag and pull open the drawers.
What about you? Are you preoccupied with exterior acts? Or do you ask God to work on your gritty insides, too?Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.Let me hear joy and gladness;Let the bones you have crushed rejoice.Hide your face from my sins,And blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,And renew a steadfast spirit within me.Psalm 51: 6-10