I have this little patio set that my grandmother gave me about eight years ago when she moved out of her home and into a retirement apartment. I have no idea how old it is, but it's nice and heavy and really cute. There's a little round table, two chairs, and a two-seater bench. When she gave it to me, it was solid black, the typical color for wrought iron pieces. But over the years of sitting in the sun, the paint had begun to bubble up a bit and crack and peel revealing the colors in layers below.
I had been considering refinishing it all for quite some time, and just this week I made the trip to my local Lowe's to pick up all the necessary supplies. Paint stripper, rust neutralizer, primer, paint, drop cloths, steel wool. I picked out a lovely teal shade of blue, and I was so excited to get started. Until I actually did, and then I realized that I had a big mess on my hands.
There were thick layers upon layers of paint. The first application of stripper only ate through the first coat of paint on most of the chair I began with, and so I realized I would need to apply more. What I was left with was a gunky mess of old paint clinging to the lattice work of the seat and around the scroll work at the top.
Lord have mercy.
So I put a little muscle into it, and I began to scrape, scrape, scrape. After quite a bit of time and sweat, I felt like I was getting somewhere and could actually see what must have been the original color. Seemed like the piece of furniture had lost so much of its shape with all the coats of paint from over the years. Where the iron work had been delicately formed into curves and had been forged together, layers of paint had settled making curves fatter and clean lines frumpy. With a lot of hard work, each piece of furniture was looking more and more like what its maker had intended.
If you know me at all, you know where my mind is going...
I thought about my life, how I started out fresh and clean and void of residue and gunk. And then we grow up, we start living our lives, we learn what is really out there, what really goes on. We make mistakes, some big and some small. We cover them up in layers of regret and pain and guilt and shame. Things may look okay on the surface, but underneath is still that same old crap, and it's jumbled up the clean lines of who our Maker created us to be.
His Grace is like the stripping agent. He pours His blood on us, and miracles happen, dissolving away years of disgrace and disgust. With a little work, we become as close to our original self as possible, leaving behind mere faded scars of our past.
I don't think I am the only one who looks around me, in real life and in social media, and thinks, "Look at her... she did it all right. Made the right choices, married the right person the first time, has the right number of kids and does everything so well." I somehow think that just because I can't see what lies beneath her shiny finish that she must not have layers and layers of the same crap I do. But she does. And so does everyone else. We are all covering up something. It's in our nature. Read about the first sin in the history of mankind... when we are ashamed of something, we do anything in our power to hide it.
In Christ, however, we need not be ashamed. We need not apply thick coats of primer and paint to alter who we really are. He knows what is underneath anyway. We only do it to impress the others around us. So I wonder what the world would look like if we all bathed ourselves in the blood of Christ, letting go of the past, letting Him strip us down to the bare rawness of the soul of our childhood, where is was safe to tell the truth and love freely with zero expectations?
I guess that is what heaven will really be like. Until then, I will continue my scraping, both literally and figuratively.