In the last 6 months, I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit on a ladder with a brush or roller in my hand.
It’s a love/hate sort of relationship, loving the beginning and seeing the transformation happen and also loving the end where you see the final project. You pick up the drop cloths, pull off the tape, wash the brushes and clean up the sprinkles and splats. It can be quite beautiful.
It’s the in-between that’s challenging. The melancholy of the second coat, so to speak. There’s a middle place where you see the new paint, framed by blue tape and displaced furniture, but you also see the thin and light spots. The places where the old color and shade is showing through the new and bright tones.
It reminds you of what you’re doing. You’re covering something up.
No paint project actually recreates a wall or a ceiling. It merely changes it - shifts the colors, and covers up what has come before. That’s why they market paints with the phrases “single coat COVERAGE.”
We are not making new. We are covering over.
The thought that comes to mind is how strongly we take to the intention of masking our pasts: Who we were, who we are, what we’ve done, where we lack. We put them deep into a steamer trunk or layer coat after coat of color on top of them, hoping that the light spots will disappear.
We do it because someone will come to visit. Someone will see it. They will expect us to be flawless and without blemish, especially if we are people of faith.
As I write this, there’s a voice inside that says, “Oh Casey, another post about you don’t have to have everything cleaned up to come to Jesus?” How many more times can you trot out that line? Hasn’t everyone heard it by this point? But that’s not quite it.
My greatest passion, honestly, is not to help people become more religious but to become more HUMAN.
In Jesus, God came as a human for a reason.
God created humanity as an image-bearing species for a reason.
The teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures are not to remove us and make us other-worldly, but instead to capture that most generous and specific part of who God made us to be. That which is most human.
My hope is to help people find the religion, practice, and narrative that brings that humanity into the light of God so that we can live it as He designed it.
To paraphrase scholar N.T. Wright, sin is the name we give to those things we do that betray our humanity.
The major obstacle to presence in this kind of humanity is pretense. Paint. Covering over the spaces that need work, instead of admitting that to be human is to need work.
I finished a paint project yesterday. I can see all the places where the roller got out of hand, where I got too close to trim, where I didn’t quite get an even coat. I see those marks as soon as I walk in the room.
That’s because a human painted it.
We are humans painting a life, and to follow Jesus is to learn how to paint a human life without pretense or perfectionism, but to paint it in wildly bright colors that bring to light that which is deepest in us. Light. Humility. Want. Will. Beauty. Contradiction. Grace.
May you paint today not to cover, but to display. To show the human project God is shaping in you and in those you love.