This summer’s big project is replacing some windows in our house. While professionals are doing the installation, my husband and I decided to paint the new window frames ourselves. We’d use the old paint stored in the cellar that matched the woodwork of each room. It was only eighteen years old!
A worthy plan, I thought, and my father who worked his way through college as a painter would be proud of me. I began to explore the dusty shelves of old gallon cans, brushing away spider webs and dirt and trying to read the faded labels written so long ago. I eventually discovered a cryptic scrawl on one can: “Study wood.” And on another: “Master bed.” These I could use.
The challenge was just beginning. Rusty and misshapen, the first lid stubbornly fought my efforts to lift it. I used a putty knife, and then a screwdriver. I persisted; the lid resisted. I kept prying at it, and the lid shifted but still clung tightly to the dried paint on its inside edge. Finally, bit by bit, I pulled all around the lip, and the lid slowly lifted.
What a mess inside! Instead of the soft peachy-pink I expected, it was bluish-brown with a thick, hard crust. Oops, this must be the wrong can. Discouraged, I began to search the shelves again, but nothing else seemed likely. Finally, I decided to stir the paint in the can I had opened. If I couldn’t use it, I needed to dispose of it. I pulled off the surface crust and found — an oily bluish-brown mess underneath.
I began to stir. And I stirred and stirred. At first nothing changed, but then wisps of pink began slowly to appear. As I kept on stirring, the thick paint recovered more and more of its soft pink shade. I stared in delight as my “Master bed” paint gradually reclaimed its true color.
Finally I was ready to paint. I dipped my brush into the smooth pale color, and spread paint onto the frame of the window through which the sun would shine, through which the world would glow in morning freshness and in evening peace. I had recalled the paint to its true identity, a thing of beauty and service.
This small, frustrating episode of the old paint can reminded me how I can be like a stubborn old can of paint! I, too, can be resistant and closed. I can fight against my world changing. And sometimes my crust can persuade people there’s no hidden beauty underneath.
The truth is I, and perhaps all of us, need God’s help to crack open our lives and stir us up. It is so easy to remain closed. Guarding ourselves under a tight lid and a thick skin may feel safer than being open, but we’re not fully living when we’re hidden away. We need the Divine One whose patient persistence pries open the sealed places. What happens when our lids come off? Yes, we are more vulnerable, more likely to feel pain. We are also more likely to know love and joy. We become more alive and awake to this amazing world we live in.
When God stirs us, we can slowly become more like the person we were created to be. God’s stirring might be experienced as a fierce challenge or as a gentle nudge stretching us in new ways. We might see a need and offer to help. Perhaps we discover colors, I mean gifts, we didn’t know we had inside us. And when we use them, when we care about and are involved in the world, our own unique beauty is revealed. We have grown into ourselves.
I’m glad I patiently kept working on the old can of paint. And I’m especially glad God keeps on working on us so we can become our true colors!
If this reflection has spoken to you, please share it with another.